Iowa History Daily: November 20 - Old Capitol Fire

Iowa History Daily: On November 20, 2001, firefighters raced as a blaze destroyed the cupola, dome, and bell at the Old Capitol in Iowa City. The most prominent feature on the University of Iowa campus, the ‘Old Capitol’ hosted the Iowa Constitutional Convention and served as the seat of government until 1857.

Originally the Territorial Capitol Building for Iowa, crews set the cornerstone for the structure on July 4, 1840. By December 5, 1842, the building was ready to host the Fifth Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa. The site also saw the drafting on Iowa’s constitution, the inauguration of the state’s first governor, and the creation of the state’s first public university (State University of Iowa, now University of Iowa).

When the state moved the capital to Des Moines in 1857, the University of Iowa gained ownership of the building. With major renovations in the 1920s and 1970s, the building served a variety of functions including classroom space and the home of the University President’s offices. Converted to an historical museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the building continued to serve an important role as the anchor of the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa.

A major exterior renovation in 2001 led to the inadvertent fire which destroyed parts of the building. A 1920s concrete firewall limited the damage, but the tens of thousands of gallons of water caused significant damage. However, by 2003 a new 12,000 pound wood dome covered in 23 ¾ carat gold leaf rose to again crown the Old Capitol in Iowa City. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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