This election has exposed some of the serious divides in American politics. But despite our arguments and debates, our democratic traditions, especially the public places where they take place, still resonate and showcase our higher ideals. Citizens of every political persuasion can usually agree about the beauty of a government building, or the stunning facade of a neoclassical state capitol. Curbed has assembled a list of some of the greatest and grandest government buildings across the country. On such an important election day, it seems only fitting to look back at some of the literal foundations of government.
West Virginia State Capitol (Charleston, Virginia)
Situated on a picturesque bank overlooking the Kanawha River, West Virginia’s seat of government was designed by the famed Cass Gilbert, and finished in 1932. Gilbert’s design for the buff limestone structure proved inspirational: he copied the part of the design when he later created a building for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vermont State House (Montpelier, Vermont)
It’s a postcard-perfect vision of government design: a classically detailed legislative center, with a Doric portico, set against a backdrop of green mountains. The gold leaf-covered dome, added during the Colonial Revival of the 20th century, just adds an extra flourish.
John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse (Boston, Massachusetts)
An award-winning design by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, this gorgeous, curved space on the Boston Waterfront, done up in brick with granite trim, features a sloped glass wall, and has been the recipient of multiple design awards. The interior features a number of works by Ellsworth Kelly.
Marin County Civic Center (San Rafael, California)
A rare government commission by Frank Lloyd Wright, this multi-story administration building and a Hall of Justice looks futuristic enough to be used by superheroes. The sprawling complex, with curved blue roofs, large atriums, a dome and golden spire, and vertical grills of gold-anodized metals at the entryways, could be considered Wright’s final comment on the California landscape.
El Paso United States Federal Courthouse (El Paso, Texas)
Composed of angular, sculptural forms, this limestone-and-copper courthouse by Antoine Predock Architects stands as a striking complement to the Texas landscape and nearby mountains.
Buffalo City Hall (Buffalo, New York)
One of the tallest municipal structures in the country, this hulking, 32-story Art Deco tower by Dietel, Wade & Jones is considered an excellent example of the style. Finished in 1932, the building originally featured a passive cooling system that utilized breezes from Lake Erie, and still contains a striking stained glass sun in the city council chambers.
United States Courthouse (Austin, Texas)
Set upon the city’s Republic Square, this Rubix cube of a building by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, designed in a pinwheel plan, was a celebrated addition to the city in 2014.
Oregon State Capitol (Salem, Oregon)
The third time was a charm for this western state’s legislative centerpiece, which replaced two previous capitols that had burned down. Designed by Trowbridge & Livingston in a stripped-down Art Deco style, and financed in part by WPA money, this structure exemplified streamlined ‘30s design, and is still one of the youngest such buildings in the country.
Wisconsin State Capitol (Madison, Wisconsin)
Completed in 1917, the Wisconsin State Capitol is a classical beauty, made from 43 types of stones and crowned with a Daniel Chester French statue, “Wisconsin,” near the entrance. Designed by George B. Post & Sons from New York, the building contains a series of fossils throughout its walls.
United States Courthouse (Springfield, Massachusetts)
One of the edgier courthouses in the country, this Moshe Safdie-designed site features a curved colonnade and a 200-foot-tall mural by artist Sol LeWitt.
Hawaii State Capitol (Honolulu, Hawaii)
A bit of an outlier on a list filled with classical design, this symbol of the Aloha State exemplifies a style called “Hawaiian International,” offering a sleek take on state architecture. The reflecting pool adds a modernist touch rarely seen around other statehouses.
Dallas City Hall (Dallas, Texas)
I.M. Pei’s bold design was initially viewed as too edgy, the leaning, Brutalist concrete creation seen as both too unsteady and unorthodox (the mayor at the time was so nervous about the leaning, inverted pyramid that the architect added three additional columns). Avant-garde and controversial, it’s nonetheless considered one of Pei’s more striking works.
United States Capitol (Washington, D.C.)
A neoclassical colossus that now covers more than 1.5 million square feet, the nation’s legislative center was designed by William Thornton, whose plan exemplified "grandeur, simplicity, and beauty" according to President George Washington.
Old State Capitol (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Now the home of the Museum of Political History, this one-of-a-kind design—called Castellated Gothic by its architect, James Dakin—was a cajun castle of sorts, built in 1852 with cast iron across its facade.
Kluczynski Federal Building (Chicago, Illinois)
Mies van der Rohe’s 45-story modernist tower forms an iconic part of Chicago’s loop, a minimalist skyscraper that cuts a dashing steel silhouette. A red Alexander Calder statue, Flamingo, stands in the plaza.