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Wisconsin State Capitol Lantern Balcony

 Lantern Balcony
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 Lantern Balcony
This is a spectacular view from the observation deck just below the lantern at 236' 9" from ground level. From this location, the entire Madison isthmus is easily seen. The Wisconsin State Capitol is located in the heart of downtown Madison on an isthmus formed by Lake Mendota to the north and Lake Monona to the south.

Tours of the State Capitol building were first offered to the public in 1915. From 1915 to 1931 the public was allowed access to this observation deck and the lantern above. To reach this level visitors took an elevator in any of the four wings to the fourth floor and ascended 23 marble stairs to the fifth floor landing. From there they climbed another 14 metal stairs to reach the sixth level where the museum is still located. This level also provides access to the rotunda trumpeter's ring at 83' 9". It is also the beginning of the metal spiral staircase. Eleven stairs up the staircase provides access to the first of three observation decks. The first observation deck remains open to this day and still thrills summer visitors with a view of Madison at 92'.

From this point, visitors could continue their journey and embark on their longest climb of 87 stairs on the spiral staircase to reach the second observation deck at 157' 3". The stairs at this point change back to an inclined staircase. After walking up 36 stairs, visitors reached the dome mural "Resources of Wisconsin", just an arms length away. Visitors could step up one more stair to look over the railing and see the decorative floor of the rotunda 184' 3" below.

After visitors reached the dome mural and they wanted to continue their journey, they encountered two stairways leading to the lantern. However, neither of the landings is very big, so only 25 visitors at a time were allowed to proceed higher. The next 25 stairs incline directly over the dome mural and are suspended in mid-air, so they swayed as visitors ascended them. Next is the final single spiral staircase that led visitors to the lantern. After climbing 45 stairs, visitors reached the lantern observation deck, which is the view you are seeing. The observation deck is not very wide, only about three feet and the flooring is metal which buckled under the weight of visitors. From this point there are just 11 more spiral stairs to reach the inside of the lantern. The interior of the Lantern gave visitors a view of the city at 244' 6".

After 1931, the public was no longer allowed to go to the lantern due to safety and liability concerns. Visitors were still allowed to go as far as the dome mural "Resources of Wisconsin" until sometime in the late 50's. Today the highest point the public is allowed to go is the first observation deck at 92'. This deck is open from Memorial Day through the first week of November.