The American Statehouse
Interpreting Democracy's Temples
Charles T. Goodsell
The American Statehouse examines the interplay of architecture and politics in all fifty state capitols. Using both careful analysis and photographs of exteriors and interiors, Goodsell demonstrates how the architectural elements embody political values and ideas; influence how politicians, lobbyists, and the news media behave; and both awe and unite the citizenry. He concludes that a statehouse's design is an intentional expression of how to practice politics democratically.
The American state capitol is a "statehouse" in that it was historically conceived as the center and home of all of state government. As a building type, it emerged in the early nineteenth century and flowered in the early twentieth. One of the very few purely American architectural forms, the statehouse not only encloses but also symbolizes American democracy at the state level.
“In this book, not only do the stones speak, but also so does the furniture and its layout. They enshrine the political spirit of America, and in so inshrining make manifest its limits and its continuing promise.”
—Public Administration Review
“Goodsell’s observations provide fresh insights into these uniquely American buildings.”
—Public HistorianSee all reviews...
“The American Statehouse is interesting, it is written clearly, and the generous quantity of good and appropriate photographs, plus a few diagrams and tables, helps to explain the text.”
—Annals of Iowa
“The importance of [Goodsell’s] work goes beyond itself for it helps to open up the study of public physical space and its relationship to politics and democracy in other areas as well.”
—Journal of Politics
“Contributes to a deeper understanding of the multi-layered image statehouses portray. Goodsell’s political and social science analyses give a different architectural perspective: how a statehouse’s history, its form, iconography, interior ornamentation, and artifacts affect our lives in unique ways.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“This landmark book is a pioneering contribution towards understanding the interaction between politics and space in the statehouse.”
—James M. Mayo, author of The American Country Club: Its Origins and Evolution
“Charles Goodsell remains one of the most trustworthy guides to the complex relationship between architecture and politics. His new book is not only a fine study of a particular building type; it is a study that—through the questions it asks—invites introspection about the meaning of other building types, as well.”
—Lawrence J. Vale, author of Architecture, Power, and National Identity
“Full of fascinating insights and also highly readable.”
—Amos Rapoport, author of The Meaning of the Built EnvironmentSee fewer reviews...
That all three branches of government, not to mention the state bureaucracy initially, were housed under one roof meant that the doctrine of the separation of powers had to be "worked out" in close quarters, often in revealing ways. What also evolved in the statehouse was a distinct style of politics that mixed colorful leadership, varied partisanship, bicameral opposition, deliberative debate, insider lobbying, uninhibited reporting, bureaucratic growth, and populist activism. All of these elements both affected and were acted upon by the built form—the statehouse—of state government.
At the nexus of architectural studies and political science, this book is about the interaction of architecture and politics in America's state capitols. Goodsell offers what he calls a social interpretation of architecture. Toward this end, he utilizes three conceptual frameworks: one devoted to seeking political values or ideas embedded within the buildings, a second concerned with the effects of the buildings on contemporary political behavior, and a third seeking to appraise larger impressions the buildings make on society. Goodsell concludes that the statehouse enshrines both majestic state authority on the one hand and liberal representative government on the other. The American statehouse, then, is not just a temple but a temple of democracy.