Business Insider readers choose North Dakota Capitol as state’s ‘most beautiful building’

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BISMARCK — Business Insider has named the North Dakota Capitol as the state's "most beautiful building."

In a list published earlier this month, the financial news website rounded up one structure for all 50 states and Washington, D.C., after asking readers "to name the one architectural masterpiece they adore in their state."

North Dakota's selection didn't surprise those who know it well. Lorna Meidinger, architectural historian for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, said the Capitol is "one of the most beautiful" — but not to everyone.

"It comes down to a lot of personal style with a lot of these designations," she said.

The state Capitol was built from 1933-34 after the previous statehouse burned in 1930 in a fire attributed to oily rags in a janitor's closet. The structure is fairly simple: a 19-story Art Deco skyscraper that lacks the rotunda of other statehouses. Only a few states, such as Louisiana and Nebraska, have capitols similar to North Dakota.

"There's not much for wasted space in our capitol," Meidinger said. "One of the things about the domes on most capitols is they were functional in an area where it allows the warm air to go up, but they were also meant to be really impressive and make individuals feel really small and how big and powerful the functions of that building are."

North Dakota's capitol is "more approachable," while its "quality materials" and design have also held up throughout the years, she added.

Capitol tour guide Darlene Neas, who has led tours since 2008, said the designation didn't surprise her, noting the building's wood and marble features and the "clean lines" in its design.

She said tour participants usually remark on the Capitol's "plain" exterior contrasted with its "elegant and beautiful" interior, as well as the "great view" from the 18th story observation deck, looking over the Bismarck area.

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said she'll walk the Capitol's halls sometimes for clarity of mind amid the building's "vibe" from its Art Deco design.

"It's a wonderful place to work," said Schmidt, adding the state library and many county courthouses across the state also could rank as most beautiful.

The state Heritage Center has made a few similar lists for North Dakota's most beautiful building. Neas said North Dakota's former governor's mansion is another popular and attractive structure. Meidinger agreed.

"Not just the style or the beautiful colors, but it evokes an era for me," she said. "I'm really, really attracted to that in a building, is when it speaks to when it's from."

Neas said people worldwide have toured the North Dakota Capitol. Last week, she led people from France, Switzerland, Germany and Canada.

"Just all over," she said.

Summer tours of the Capitol are offered hourly from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday and on Labor Day and 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tours begin at the ground floor information desk and visit a number of areas leading to the observation deck.