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State House

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24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133 United States
(617) 722-2000 www.malegislature.gov

Largely built in the 1789, the State House at the corner of Beacon and Park Streets is still considered “new,” having replaced the old State House by Government Center. Architect Charles Bulfinch, famous for his work on the Capitol Building in Washington DC and the Amory-Ticknor House, based his designs on London buildings that had inspired him during a tour of Europe. At the time of Bulfinch’s construction, however, the famous gold dome was made of wooden shingles and whitewashed; Paul Revere’s company, which pioneered the use of copper sheets, covered the dome in 1802, and it was first gilded in 1874. Today, it is the oldest building in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, constructed on land that once belonged to John Hancock—specifically, the Hancock family’s cow pasture.

The State House is known for several internal oddities. A nearly five-foot painted wooden cod, more often referred to as the Sacred Cod, hangs above the visitor’s gallery in the House of Representatives as a reminder of the importance of cod fishing to the Commonwealth. At least three separate codfish have held the position, dating back to the 1790s, the most recent of which was briefly stolen as part of a Harvard prank in 1933. The Sacred Cod is not to be confused, of course, with the Holy Mackerel, a brass representation in a chandelier in the Senate. Less fishy design elements include the golden pinecone at the top of the dome, a tribute to Maine’s former inclusion in the Commonwealth and the importance of lumber and logging, and a collection of historical statuary. Writer Oliver Wendell Holmes once called the State House “the Hub of the Solar-System,” a phrase that has been extended to cover all of Boston, often called the “the Hub of the Universe” or just the Hub.

Today, there is also a bookstore on the first floor of the State House, which sells printed documents from the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), election statistics, guides from the historical society, books on the history of Boston, and souvenirs.  

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Did You Know?

Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.