The History of the New Jersey State House
in the heart of Trenton, the New Jersey State House is
history come alive. Our State House is the second oldest
still in use. (Maryland has the oldest.) For more than
200 years, New Jersey Senators, Assemblymen, and Governors
have been making the laws of the state in this building.
1999, the restoration of the State House dome was completed.
The project began in October, 1996. The dome is covered
with 48,000 pieces of gold leaf. Each piece of gold leaf
cost $1.00 and was paid for with money raised by New Jersey
school kids through the "Dimes for the Dome" program.
As a thank you for their contributions, the dome stands
in honor of New Jersey children.
the recent dome restoration cost more than $9 million,
the original State House cost only $400 to construct. Architect
Jonathan Doane designed the building, and it was completed
in 1792. The building originally had a bell tower instead
of a dome. The Senate and Assembly met on the first floor,
and the Governor's office was on the second floor.
New Jersey got more legislators, it needed a bigger State
House. In 1845, famous architect John Notman began the
project of enlarging and improving the building. Notman
designed a rotunda with an 80-foot dome to connect the
old building to a new structure. He also added a porch
with eight pillars and modernized the Senate chamber. In
1872 the Capitol was further renovated as new Senate and
Assembly chambers were constructed. Architect Samuel Sloan
oversaw the project.
on March 21, 1885, most of the State House was destroyed
in a devastating fire. The building blazed for hours. Luckily,
no one was hurt, and the Governor's Office, Senate and
Assembly chambers, and the courts remained standing. Most
of the historical documents were saved as well, thanks
to Notman's fireproofing of the building 40 years earlier.
However, the walls and roof were weakened, and the rotunda
and dome were destroyed.
1889, Lewis Broome began planning the repair of the State
House. The rotunda and a new 145-foot dome were built,
bigger and better than before. The dome is made of cast
iron covered with copper and gold leaf. It weighs 205,640
pounds. The Latin phrase "Fiat Justitia Ruat Coelum" is
written on the rotunda. It means "There must be justice
even though the heavens fall."
further expanded the State House in American Renaissance
style with a three-story wing on State Street and a redesigned
Assembly wing. Occasional expansions were made through
1912. The main corridor was updated in the 1950s, but no
major structural changes have been made since then.
the State House continues to serve New Jersey as both a
historical monument and a place of work.