On This Date In Twin Cities History - February 7, 1851

Minnesota's first State Capitol building circa 1873 (MHS)On this date in 1851, the Minnesota Territorial Legislature passes an act “to Provide for the Erection of Public Buildings in the Territory of Minnesota.”, locating the capitol in St. Paul and the territorial prison in Stillwater.

The act created a Commission of Public Buildings to oversee finances and the hiring of contractors to build the capitol. Architect N. C. Prentiss designed the new capitol building and in the summer of 1851 the commission received proposals from contractors for its construction.

Property for the new territorial capitol was deeded to the Governor and Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Minnesota by Charles and Annie J. Bazille for one dollar.

Built at a cost of $31,642.81, the new capitol was completed in time for the fifth territorial legislative session which began on January 4, 1854.  In 1873, a new wing fronting Exchange Street was added enlarging the Senate chamber. A. M. Radcliff was selected as the architect.  In 1878, a second wing was added along the Wabasha Street side of the building. Leroy S. Buffington was chosen as the architect for this addition.

While legislators met on the evening of March 1, 1881, a fire broke out in the capitol dome, quickly spreading to other areas of the building. Legislators and bystanders rescued a number important documents, furniture and historical collections before the building was engulfed. The building was a total loss, but remarkably no one perished as a result of the fire. Local newspapers estimated the damages as a result of the blaze at $180,000.

The newly completed Market House at Seventh and Wabasha Streets was used a temporary home for Minnesota’s government beginning the following day.  A new state capitol was completed in 1883.

(Image: Minnesota’s first State Capitol building circa 1873 – Photo credit MNHS)