Here to return to
THE LAYING OF THE CORNER-STONE OF THE STATE HOUSE
IN 1795 the Hancock pasture became the property of the Town; and on May 2d of that year it was formally transferred to the Commonwealth “for the purpose of erecting thereon a State House for the accommodation of all the legislative and executive branches of the Government.” The corner-stone of the new building was laid with impressive ceremonies by the Governor, Samuel Adams, on Saturday, July 4, 1795, being the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Preliminary exercises were held in the Old South Church, where an oration was delivered by George Blake, Esq., and was received with great enthusiasm. In the large assemblage, which included many distinguished officials and other prominent citizens, “every countenance (some few excepted) smiled with joy and satisfaction. The whole audience listened with profound admiration to the end; when, as if by some impulse of sentiment and soul, the citizens filled the House of God with Praise and Joy.”
At the conclusion of these exercises a Procession was formed, as follows:
The Independent Fusileers
on a truck decorated with ribbons, and drawn by
fifteen white horses, with a leader.
Stewards with Staves
Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts
Three Master Masons
bearing the Square, Level, and Plumb-Rule
bearing Corn, Wine, and Oil
Officers of Lodges in their respective Jewels
Past Masters, Royal Arch, etc.
Band of Music, decorated
Grand Deacons with Wands
Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary
Past Grand Wardens
Grand Senior and Junior Wardens
Past Deputy Grand Masters
Past Grand Masters
Grand Master attended by the
Deputy Grand Master and Stewards
Deputy Grand Marshal
Sheriff of Suffolk
The Agents of the Commonwealth
His Excellency the Governor
His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor
The Honorable Council
Members of the Legislature
Clergy and Strangers of Distinction
In this order they marched to the State-House site, where the Corner-Stone was laid by Governor Adams, assisted by officials of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Massachusetts.1
It appears that at that time certain elements among the citizens of the Commonwealth were jealous of Boston’s supremacy as the Metropolis of New England. For to what other motive can be attributed the following extract from a Salem newspaper of September 15, 1795? “Notwithstanding that the cornerstone of a new State House has been laid with so much pomp in Boston, it is doubted whether a superstructure will ever rest upon it; as the factious attempts of the Bostonians to govern the State render that town a very improper place for legislative deliberations!”
On Thursday, January 11, 1798, the “Supreme Executive” met the members of the Legislature in the Senate Chamber of the Old State House; this being their last meeting in that historic building. And at noon of the same day the State officials, including the Senators and Representatives, with other dignitaries, proceeded to the new “Commonwealth House,” where the Reverend Doctor Thatcher, Chaplain of the General Court, in an eloquent address, “dedicated the building to the most honorable of human pursuits; the honor of God, and the people’s good.”2 Governor Increase Sumner also made an address, wherein he dwelt upon the advantages of the new edifice; commenting upon its convenient apartments, suitable retirement, wholesome surroundings, and delightful prospect. He remarked, moreover, that perhaps no more useful or magnificent public building was to be found in the United States at that time.
The distinguished editor, Richard Grant White, described the State-House Dome as a protension heavenward of the Hub of the Universe; the globed and gilded tip of that axis around which all that is best in western civilization revolves, ever has revolved, and as it seems, ever will revolve.
In the opinion of the same writer, the edifice, while not a very wonderful or beautiful structure, compels admiration on account of its expression of dignity, decorum, and eminent respectability.
The Dome, originally built of wood, was sheathed with copper in 1802. The red bricks of the main building were painted white in 1825. Many years later the lead color of the Dome was changed to yellow; and in 1874 a covering of gold leaf was applied. The present cupola dates from 1897, and is a reproduction of the original one.3
1 The Columbian Centinel, July 8, 1795.
2 The Centinel, January 13, 1798, 22.
3 The State House Guide. 1917.