Annapolis, Maryland: Oldest State Capitol, former U.S. Capitol, St. Anne crown the two highest points.
Drive into the center of Annapolis off of US 50 and two buildings will capture your attention. This is by design as laid out in province documents as far back as 1695. When the capital of the province was moved to Annapolis, the royal governor laid out a street plan that organized the highest point of two circles for the state house and the second highest circle for the church. Three statehouses have occupied the top spot with the current one being the oldest U.S. State capitol in continuous use dating back to 1772. In 1783 and 1784 it also served as U.S. Capitol. Queen Anne became Monarch in 1702 and the first St. Anne's Episcopal church was built about 1700. The current and third St. Anne's dates back to 1859 after a spectacular fire on Valentines day in 1858 burned down the second church building.
The three buildings on each circle are connected as church and state were connected in Colonial times. In 1692, on order of the king and queen, William and Mary, became a crown colony, and the Maryland provincial assembly, then located in St. Mary's City, voted "the Establishment of the Protestant Religion within this Province." Thirty Church of England parishes were set up throughout the colony, one of which became St. Anne's. Sheriffs were required to collect taxes, paid in tobacco, to be turned over to parish vestries to build necessary churches and chapels and then use the proceeds to support the clergy. Imagine the outrage this setup would cause in today's world.
Opposition of Quakers and Roman Catholics in Maryland led the monarchs' Privy Council to veto the act. The act was passed and rejected three more times before Queen Anne signed it after becoming monarch. The Act included provisions for religious toleration for both Catholics and Quakers who were allowed to have their own places of worship but had to pay the tobacco tax. You can dive deeper into these church and state connections by going to www.stannes-annapolis.org/history.
The State House grounds had it's own symbols of distinction leaning toward a separation of space from it's lower church circle. The capitol is topped by the largest wooden dome in the United Sates constructed without nails. Construction was started in 1772 but not finished until 1797 due to the ongoing Revolutionary War and maybe that lack of nails. The large dome is topped by a balustraded balcony, another octagonal drum and a lantern capped by a lightning rod. The rod was constructed and grounded according to the direct specifications of its inventor, Benjamin Franklin. The building was surrounded by a low brick wall in 1818. Could this be a wall of separation between church and state? Actually, it was to prevent cattle incursions, and was replaced by an iron fence with a granite base in 1836.
The history of church and state connections and separation can be studied here on two circles on the crown of Annapolis in the state of Maryland. Take a small detour off US 50 before the bay bridge and the US Naval Academy for a royal lesson in time.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Capitol fire leads to church connection and church & state intersection.
John Harris Jr. plotted out the land on the hill by the Susquehanna River and named it after his father. He then gave 4 acres and 21 square perches to the state as part of his proposal in 1789 contingent on being used for the capital. Initially the legislature moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster for ten years because Lancaster had a larger population than rural Harrisburg. In 1812, the first of three Capitol buildings was finished. The Hills Capitol won the first ever contest to create a State Capitol, not because it was on a hill. It was the name of the winning architect. On Feb 2nd, 1897 the Hills Capitol burned to the ground.
Henry Cobb from Chicago was selected as the architect to build a new Capitol, which he started but ran out of funding. Governor Hastings selected a pay as you go method of paying. The homeless legislature meet in the Methodist church close by until 1899, then moved to the unfinished building that Cobb himself called ugly. In 1901 a new Capitol commission was formed and required a Pennsylvania architect. Joseph Huston was selected and continued to completion in 1906. Governor Pennypacker welcomed President Theodore Roosevelt to the dedication who proclaimed the new Capitol "the handsomest building I ever saw".
The journey of Pennsylvania State Capitol Harrisburg history is full of H's. Harris to Hills to Henry to homeless to Hastings to Huston until Pennypacker and Roosevelt found it to be the handsomest.
Grace Methodist Episcopal Church built between 1873 and 1878 was in the right place when the Capitol burned in 1897. Some historians say that it saved Harrisburg as the State Capitol. With no where to meet, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia pitched themselves as landing spots. The clergy and congregation opened it's doors and Sunday School rooms to the legislature for 2 years while the Henry Cobb Capitol was under construction. It's prominent location on State street was the perfect substitute.
One block to the East another prominent and beautiful church was built in 1859. Pine Street Presbyterian patrons met in Senate chambers for the first year during construction. One block south of Grace Methodist on State Street a third church building rose from chapel to Cathedral from 1807 to 1907. St. Patrick's Cathedral with it's green dome is actually at the corner of Church and State Street, directly in front of the current Capitol.
Most events now are held on the North side in the sprawling Capitol complex. If your visiting the Pennsylvania State Capitol you may want to swing around to the other side where the church bells toll and find a bunch of H H H H H H H history in the Harrisburg Capitol timeline.
Charleston, West Virginia: Five Capitals up and down the river. Five churches in one building.
The hidden history of a space in the gap between church and state takes time to discover. My first visit to the current Capital of Ohio in 2013 was focused on discovery of the closest church to the State Capitol. However, the best parking was actually a huge garage under the Capitol square block. Walking up to tour the landscape was a little disorienting. I missed the huge statue and description of Christopher Columbus on the SW side. Stumbled across a store front for the Church of Scientology on the NW side. Read the inscriptions of famous Ohioans and their monuments on the West side. Found the huge neon sign of the Ohio Stateman newspaper on the East side. Then noticed the red door of Trinity Episcopal just a crosswalk away on the NE corner. Captured a bunch of pictures and made my way back down into the parking garage under the Capitol. I thought about the risks of an earthquake or more nefarious intentions and the safety of the setup. Then went on my merry way.
The second visit this year was during a tour of the 3 Ohio Capitals with Marie. We tried to catch a Catholic mass at St. Josephs 2 blocks away. Found the Christopher Columbus monuments, and were amazed to see Wedding guests arriving at a reception in the Capitol. We saw the Red door of Trinity but never entered. Hidden beyond the red door is a stained glass story of Ohio history and landmarks. It is best told by this article from Doug Motz. He also passed by the red door many times before slowing down and discovering the charms of the building. His article was written 6 weeks after I visited in March of 2013. Interesting that we were both finding time. Read it here. https://www.columbusunderground.com/history-lesson-a-celebration-of-columbus-history-in-stained-glass-dm1/
The Church in the World can be found behind the Red door at the corner of Third and Broad in downtown Columbus. on the NE corner of Capitol square. As with every Capital visit, there is always room for more discovery. On my next visit Trinity Episcopal will be my first stop after climbing up from underground.
Lansing, Michigan : Where Lorelei learned Law and churches moved in next to the Capitol.
My visit to the Capital of Michigan was actually my fifth to the city of Lansing. My daughter Lorelei attended Cooley Law school for her post graduate degree for 3 years. Moved her in, visited, and proudly saw her graduate with her law degree. This trip was entirely different. The Cooley Law campus is actually a south neighbor to the State Capitol grounds and my daughter stayed in an apartment on the north side. Did I pay attention to the Capitol and it's close church neighbors on any of my previous visits? NO!
Lansing is centrally located in the mitten shaped state of Michigan. It's first Capital was located in Detroit from 1937 to 1847. Lansing has been the Capital ever since then. The town was founded after 1790 by New Yorkers who had been lured westward with the promise of fictitious land plots. After a village was formed they named it Lansing Township after their home village of Lansing in New York. Michigan was predominant Catholic until the 19th century, but has evolved to mostly Protestant today with a significant influx of middle Eastern faiths. Catholics have dropped to less than 20% of the state population.
I had zero interest in state and church history on my previous visits to see Lorelei. This trip was different. Shortly after moving the Capital to Lansing, churches of all faiths popped up within a couple of blocks of the Capitol. Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Baptist all lined up on the north side. Each with it's own unique history of formation. Take a stroll to either side of the Capitol grounds and follow the history of it's State,Law,and Church buildings over the last two centuries.