1. Visitor Welcome Desk, 2. Historical Exhibit, 3. Gift Shop
In the original design, the central rotunda area of the garden level was a dark and often damp basement. The building restoration has transformed the area into the central welcoming place for visitors, with an interpretive exhibit, gift shop, and visitor information desk.
Original state seal painting by
Emma Edwards Green
Notice the Great Seal of the State of Idaho on the floor of the central rotunda. Adopted in 1891 by the state legislature, the original seal was designed by Emma Edwards Green and is the only state seal designed by a woman. The Latin motto Esto perpetua means “May it endure forever.” The miner represents the chief industry at the time the seal was created, while the woman holding scales represents justice, freedom, and equality.
Senate wing skylight
From the central rotunda area, look east and west. You can see a full city block and take in the view of an impressive engineering achievement – the underground atrium wings. These wings were constructed to provide additional space for legislative committee hearing rooms, where the public can participate directly in the legislative process. The wings preserve the integrity of the building’s architecture and improve the functionality of the building. As you explore the new wings, look up. Glass skylights run the length of the central corridors and offer a view of the Capitol dome. These skylights – specially engineered and designed for this project – are consistent with the vision of the original architects and provide a seamless bond between the old and new. The skylights are made of fritted glass – a clear safety glass fired with a pattern of dots for the purpose of shading and lowering solar gain – making artificial light unnecessary in some corridors during the summer and some sunny winter days.
Senate hearing rooms and offices are located in the west wing, and House hearing rooms and offices are in the east wing. A large 240-seat auditorium, shared by the Senate and House, is also located in the west wing. As you walk to the west wing, notice the original basement vault doors. These vaults were once used for record storage. All of the original vault doors remain in the building.
The doors to the Visitor Welcome Room and to the lobbyists’ room are some of the original basement vault doors. The basement vaults were originally used to store paper records. There was never any money stored in them.
Several buildings within the Capitol Mall are connected by an underground tunnel. This tunnel allows state employees to move between the Capitol and a handful of other buildings without having to go outside. It connects the mail room, print shop, and facility services functions as well. The tunnel runs beneath State Street. The tunnel is not open to the public in order to best maintain security.