The history of Texas’s legislative center is as turbulent and dramatic as that of the state itself. The current capitol, erected in 1888, replaced a limestone statehouse that burned down in 1881. Construction was financed by a land-rich but otherwise impecunious Texas government by trading 3 million acres of public lands. Gleaming pink granite was donated to the cause, but a railroad had to be built to transport the material some 75 miles from Granite Mountain, near the present-day town of Marble Falls. Texas convicts labored on the project alongside 62 stonecutters brought in from Scotland. The result is the largest state capitol building in the country, covering 3 acres; it’s second in size only to the U.S. Capitol (but still, in typical Texas style, measuring 14 feet taller). The cornerstone alone weighs 12,000 pounds, and inside, approximately 7 miles of wooden wainscoting run along the walls. A splendid rotunda and dome lie at the intersection of the main corridors. Marble statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin by Texas sculptor Elisabet Ney stand near the south entrance. In the 1990s, a massive renovation and expansion restored the grandeur of the capitol building, which had become dingy and overcrowded. The expansion project was fascinating in its own right: Almost 700,000 tons of rock were chiseled out to create an underground annex (often called the “inside-out, upside-down capitol”), constructed with similar materials and connected via tunnel to the capitol and four other state buildings. To prevent the annex from seeming too much like a cave, skylights were installed and the main corridors designed as atriums. Free 30-minute guided Capitol tours depart every 30 or 45 minutes from the South Foyer, or you can explore the buildings on your own. Be sure to stop at the Capitol Complex Visitors Center beforehand to give context to your visit.