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Why the State Capitol is our tallest building

Photo by @kbvyas19

Photo by @kbvyas19

Ask anyone in Madison what’s the most iconic scene in the city, and the answer is simple: the State Capitol building.

It serves as a beautiful backdrop for restaurants along the Capitol Square + provides perfect Instagrammable opportunities. By design, it’s the tallest building in the city, and no other building is allowed to be taller than the Capitol by city ordinance. Measuring 284 ft. from the ground to the top of the Golden Lady “Wisconsin” statue sitting at the top of the dome, the building commands our downtown skyline.

DYK: The Wisconsin State Capitol building is only 3 ft. shorter than the US Capitol building in Washington D.C.

  • The Wisconsin State Capitol building is valued at $200 million, not including any of the artwork or furniture inside.
  • “Wisconsin” — the name of the bronze statue atop the building — stands 15 ft. tall + weighs over 3 tons.
  • The statue was completed for $20,325 in 1914 by Daniel Chester French, who also created the Abraham Lincoln statue in Washington D.C.

So why is it that no building is allowed to be taller? In 1966, the City of Madison passed the “Capitol View Preservation Ordinance”, after UW-Madison’s 18-story Van Hise Hall was built. Sitting at 243 ft. tall, the Van Hise building came a little too close to blocking the Capitol skyline view. As a result, the City passed the ordinance declaring that no building within one mile of the Capitol can be taller than it.