Thomas Jefferson patterned this Classical Revival building on the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple built in Nîmes during the 1st century A.D., which he greatly admired. As he did in so many of his designs, Jefferson made the central portion a magnificent rotunda, its domed skylight ceiling ornamented in Renaissance style. The room's dramatic focal point is Houdon's life-size statue of George Washington, said to be a perfect likeness. A Carrara-marble bust of Lafayette by Houdon is also here, along with busts of the seven other Virginia-born presidents. The colonnaded wings were added between 1904 and 1906, but the rest of the building makes it the second-oldest working capitol in the United States, in continuous use since 1788. Washington Irving took notes in 1807 while John Marshall tried and acquitted Aaron Burr of treason in the old Hall of the House of Delegates. The Confederate Congress also met in the room, which resembles an open courtyard.

Visitors must enter the capitol's modern welcome center under the south lawn. From there you can wander through the building, but I highly recommend a 1-hour guided tour, given on the hour until 4pm.

To the east is the Executive Mansion, official residence of governors of Virginia since 1813. Another historic building is the old Bell Tower, built in 1824, which now houses a state visitor center.

A Lifelike Washington -- The Houdon statue of George Washington in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol is the only one ever made of the first president from life. "That is the man, himself," said Lafayette. "I can almost realize he is going to move."