Ireland to Texas Legislature, January 11, 1887

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When Reconstruction came to an end in the 1870s, Texans began to dream big again, and the modest capitol building of 1853 no longer suited the ambitions of the state. To fund the building of a new and grander capitol, the legislature in 1879 set aside three million acres of public domain land in the Panhandle. The land was surveyed in 1880.

On November 9, 1881, the old capitol burned to the ground, giving the plans a sudden urgency. In 1882, a syndicate of investors accepted the land (which eventually became the famed XIT Ranch), contracts were awarded, and construction of the new capitol began.

Five Texas governors played a role in the construction of the capitol. Francis R. Lubbock was state treasurer throughout the construction. Oran M. Roberts presided over the survey and sale of the capitol lands, the awarding of the contracts, and the groundbreaking. John Ireland insisted on the use of the pink granite which gives the Texas Capitol its distinctive beauty. Sul Ross served during the decisions to change the dome and roof and the debate on whether to accept the building given the shortcomings of the contractors. James S. Hogg, then attorney general, led the effort to delay acceptance of the structure until all repairs were made.

This manuscript of Ireland's message to the legislature details Ireland's role in selecting Texas granite for the exterior. The capitol was officially dedicated on May 16, 1888 and stands today as the emblem of Texas state government. It underwent a complete restoration from 1990-1995.

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Ireland to legislature, page 1

The New Capitol

After the work on the building had pro-

gressed to the completion of the basement story

and the water table, the contractor stated to the

Capitol Board that he could not procure the

limestone required by the contract for the

building, and proposed a change to Indiana

limestone. This proposition was the subject of

much discussion, and finally a majority of

the board voted to accept the Indiana


The law gave to the Governor, on behalf of the

state, & to the


the ultimate authority to make changes in the

original contract, and, while I had very

great respect for the views and opinions

of those voting to accept the Indiana

limestone, I considered it my duty to the people

of Texas to refuse that stone and to insist

that if any change was made it should be

to Texas granite. This I did, and the results

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Message to the Legislature, January 11, 1887, Records of John Ireland, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011