Highlights and Facilities
When Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company installed the brass chandelier in the new General Assembly chamber in 1891, the light bulb was just thirteen years old. It symbolized a new era of progress and technological promise. Nevertheless, the top half of the wall sconces were piped for old-fashioned gas light, just in case.
Stained glass lunettes and an enormous skylight help to brighten the spacious hall. Gold leafing decorates ornamental plaster work. A brightly painted wooden statue depicting the great seal of the State of New Jersey stands atop a high arch over the Assembly Speaker’s dais. The modern carpet evokes designs of years ago, incorporating images of four state symbols: the Purple Violet, Eastern Goldfinch, Red Oak Tree and Honey Bee.
Washington’s troops fought more battles in New Jersey than anywhere else. Artist William Brantley Van Ingen designed sixteen symbolic murals for the Senate Chamber to celebrate our hard-won freedom and prosperity. Scenes include the Revolutionary War battles of Trenton, Princeton and Monmouth, as well as important industries, such as building construction, glass making, agriculture and ceramics. The domed skylight features the names of famous New Jerseyans, including Governor William Livingston, inventor Seth Boyden and Civil War General George B. McClellan.
Originally completed in 1903, the Senate Chamber exemplifies the style of “Classical Revival.” It is the third such chamber dedicated to the upper House to exist at the capitol. The first now serves as the Governor’s Office, making New Jersey’s State House one of the oldest in continuous use in the entire nation.
Senators from the same political party meet in this room around the conference table to hold party caucuses — meetings to discuss their legislative agenda and party policies. The room originally housed the New Jersey Supreme Court until the judicial branch of government moved to the adjacent Annex building in 1931. Five judges once sat before a high bench in a curved apse (far end) and heard arguments. They deliberated in chambers once located through the two arched doors that flank the aspe. A stained glass skylight still includes symbols of the rule of law.
Constructed in 1929-31, the State House Annex features Beaux Arts architecture. Reflecting the onset of the Great Depression, interior finishes were rich looking, but inexpensive treatments. Built to house the State Museum, State Library and State Judiciary, it is outfitted with five sets of sculpted bronze doors symbolizing the original use of each area in the building. Today it contains public hearing rooms and legislative offices.
Notable commissioned artworks include a stained glass skylight showcasing New Jersey’s natural beauty and fabled heritage. Upper floors are seen on Annex Only tours which must be booked in advance.
Cafe NJ is located off the parking garage atrium on level 3, and is accessible via the pedestrian tunnel between the State House and Annex. The site accommodates 150 patrons and features both hot and cold food selections from a salad bar, grill, sandwich station and quick-serve take-out area. The cafe is open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Directly below the cafeteria, the State House Welcome Center houses exhibits, public rest rooms, drinking fountains and information assistance.
Just in Jersey is a series of interactive exhibits which includes multiple levels of learning so that both children and adults can enjoy it. The centerpiece is Making Laws — Debate, Negotiation and Compromise, where a ball rolls on a track representing the path of legislation. Treasures and Trivia uses touch-screen monitors to quiz visitors on state trivia. Nearby, a rotating mobile represents our Democracy in Balance. For I Have a Voice, visitors hear short debates on public policy issues and cast votes. Large blocks representing portions of the State House help visitors construct The Building of Government.