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The Architecture of William NicholsBuilding the Antebellum South in North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi$
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Paul Hardin Kapp

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781628461381

Published to University Press of Mississippi: January 2016

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781628461381.001.0001

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The State House in Raleigh

The State House in Raleigh

(p.101) Chapter Four The State House in Raleigh
The Architecture of William Nichols

Paul Hardin Kapp

Todd Sanders

William Seale

University Press of Mississippi

The original first State House in Raleigh was a plain, simple, no-nonsense cubic block building typical of North Carolina structures in the late eighteenth century. It was designed and built by Rodham Atkins and completed in 1794. In 1815, as waves of patriotism were still engulfing the newly formed country, the North Carolina General Assembly commissioned a sculpture of George Washington by world-renowned classical sculptor Antonio Canova. The life-size sculpture of a tunic-clad Washington clearly overwhelmed the simple governmental building. Officials turned to Nichols, the state architect, for “professional assistance.” Nichols, ever the opportunist, saw this as an opportunity to transform the unadorned building into an elaborate classical edifice. His persuasive appeals to the legislature worked and Nichols was commissioned to completely remodel the existing State House befitting the elegant Roman replica of our country’s founding father. The newly “remodeled” State House completely obliterated the original building design. Influenced by Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s remodeling of the U.S. Capitol, Nichols designed a building befitting a bicameral republican government. The State House was the first of Nichols’s three design statements on American democracy. Unfortunately, fire destroyed it in 1832.

Keywords:   State Capitol, Raleigh, North Carolina, Antonio Canova, Benjamin Henry Latrobe

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