Having reached the ripe old age of 100 years old this year, the Wisconsin State Capitol building has quite a past.
Michael Edmonds shared a few stories about the place at Thursday’s Waunakee Rotary meeting.
“It is a splendid building,” said Edmonds. “It can be a symbol for everybody.”
Edmonds is the Director of Programs and Outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society. In July, he released a book titled, “The Wisconsin Capitol: Stories of a Monument and Its People.”
It’s a place that’s been inhabited by politicians with such wide-ranging political ideologies as “Fighting Bob” LaFollette and Scott Walker.
 Edmonds took the Rotary audience back to the 1660s and then into the Revolutionary War period. He told about the first state capitol on King Street in Madison, remarking that it was a building nobody liked before the roof leaked, among other assorted issues. It was built in 1837.
“It only lasted about 20 years before it turned into a fire trap,” said Edmonds.
In 1859, another capitol was constructed, with pointed roofs and firefighting equipment, such as hoses. They were added in response to the famous Chicago Fire.
In 1904, the Wisconsin capitol caught fire. Edmonds related that security guards went to the coils of hoses in the building but no water came out. The building was 80 percent burned. Edmonds said many people pitched in to try and salvage materials from the capitol.
In need of a new capitol building, the state government sought an architect. George B. Post, one of the country’s leading architects, won the bid, according to Edmonds. It was Post, from New York City, who designed the current structure.
Edmonds told of how Lew Porter meticulously oversaw the building of the capitol from 1906-1917.
“It was his job to make sure Post’s specifications came to life,” said Edmonds. “There were no deviations from the specifications. Nothing escaped his eye. There was a bronze railing that he thought was bronze plated, so he took a hacksaw to it.”
In the end, Edmonds said that Porter “worked himself to death.”
When the capitol building opened, there was no celebration. Edmonds explained that was due to World War I.
Edmonds went on to talk about the capitol’s role in the woman suffrage movement and how an equal rights bill passed the state legislature in 1921 allowing women to run for offices and run businesses.
He also told the story of Samuel Pierce, an African-American who once worked as a Pullman porter before being asked to serve as Gov. John Blaine’s receptionist in 1922.
“He protected the governor from unwanted visitors,” said Edmonds. “He defended the executive office.”
 Guests: Mike Ripp, Guest of Connie Blau; Liz Diehs, guest of Allison Feldbruegge.
Visiting Rotarians: None.  
Birthdays: Sept. 2, Greg Benz; Sept. 5, Gordy Meicher.
Anniversaries: None.
Greeters: Aug. 31, Roxanne Johnson and Kevin Kearney; Sept. 7, Tom Kennedy and Bob Klostermann; Sept. 14, Ryan Knight and Tyler Knowles; Sept. 21, Neil Kruschek and Nancy Kuehn-Thomas.