Capitol Complex History

Capitol Building

On August 28, 1883, two tracts of 160 acres were deeded to the Territory of North Dakota from the Northern Pacific Railroad Company for the land on which the ND State Capitol was erected, which includes two parks.

North Dakota has enjoyed two statehouses, the first constructed during the territorial period (1883-4) five years before statehood in 1889. Fire consumed the Capitol on the night of December 28, 1930. They sold 160 acres of the Capitol grounds to help pay for the second building. The second and present Capitol was completed in 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression. Much of the exterior ornament was eliminated from Holabird and Root's design. For instance, a  50-foot statue intended for the entry plaza in front of Memorial Hall was reduced to a simple obelisk and eventually was removed altogether. Also deleted from the design was the decorative etching from the cornice stones of the Legislative wing and from the metal panels between windows of the administrative tower. The abandonment of exterior embellishment does not deny the building's Art Deco roots; rather, that simplification links the building with the International Style, an architectural order which dominated commercial construction after World War II. North Dakota's Capitol was slightly under its $2 million dollar limit, has 80% usable space, it cost merely 46 cents per cubic foot. The Capitol  building is 241 feet and 8 inches in height. The WPA workers (Works Progress Administration), made .30 cents per hour and went on strike to get .50 cents. At this point in time the Capitol went under martial Law June 1, 1933. Pictures of old and new Capitol, WPA workers, Capitol under martial law.

At the present time the Capitol complex is made up of 132 acres. In 1949 the area that is known as the Baptist Home was sold. The rest have been easements for water, and streets. The latest easement was in 2002 for the reconstruction of State Street, a section of land 15 feet X 3 feet of land by the State Office Building, to make the street wider.

Building Dimensions: The Legislative wing and Memorial Hall are 294 feet long, east-to-west; the tower has a total of 21 floors and is 241 feet and 8 inches high.

Judicial Wing of the State Capitol

The design began in May 1977, Construction began in April of 1979, agencies started moving in December of 1980, total occupancy began October 1981. The size of the Judicial Wing is 168,400 square feet and the cost of this addition was $10,500,000. The official building dedication was held on November 15, 1981 Governor Allen Olson and former Governor Arthur A. Link were both part of the ceremony.

The design concept: To balance and connect the three branches of state government; executive, legislative, and judicial in the Capitol tower and wings.

Building dimensions: The Judicial Wing is 300 feet long, east-to-west; there is a four-story atrium with skylights at the east side entrance.

State Office Building

The building was built in 1955. After voter approval for an 8-mill tax levy for construction, Bismarck Junior College Building occupied the corner of Highway 83 and Boulevard until 1961. In 1959 the Legislative Assembly purchased the building. Currently the State Office Building houses the Water Commission. During the 1991-93 biennium the building was totally remodeled and re-faced with an exterior that blended with other Capitol Complex Buildings. The State Office Building is the smallest facility housing state agencies on the Capitol Grounds it contains 28,838 square feet.

Department of Transportation 

State Highway Department was located in various buildings, from the original Capitol; the current State Capitol; and the old Bismarck Junior College building; until it moved into its own building in 1968. The highway building houses the various division which make up the Department of Transportation and several additional departments of government. The highway building was constructed with materials which harmonized visually with the pre-existing capitol grounds structures. The Department of Transportation Building contains 125,000 square feet of gross building area.

North Dakota Heritage Center

In 1963 planning for the North Dakota Heritage Center began. In 1981 the State Historical Society moved from the Liberty Memorial Building into its new Heritage Center quarters. This facility contains 130,000 square feet and provides both exhibit areas plus storage; meeting room; and office area for the State Historical Society.

Governor's Residence

Completed in 1960, the Governor's residence allowed the state's first family to move from the old residence on Fourth Street in Bismarck, onto the Capitol Grounds. Construction started June 1959 it was completed and the Davis family moved into the residence on March 18, 1960. The residence has over 10,000 square feet of floor space and consists of eighteen rooms. The residence is constructed with a centrally located kitchen which serves both the state and family areas. Landscaping the yard and planting of the lawn and shrubs was started in 1960 and completed in 1961 for approximately $6,600.00

Liberty Memorial Building

In 1919 the Legislative Assembly responding to an increase in the number of governmental agencies and authorized construction of the Liberty Memorial Building. In 1924 the building cost $350,000.00 it housed the State Historical Society Museum, the Adjutant General, the Library Commission, and the Supreme Court. Today the Liberty Memorial Building houses the State Library as well as a division of Department of Public Instruction. The building is the oldest facility on the Capitol grounds and was totally renovated in 1982.