North Dakota State Capitol Complex
Located north of downtown Bismarck is the North Dakota State
Capitol Complex. This 19-story, Art Deco building is the tallest
in the city standing at 241.75ft. It towers over the central
part of the city and can be easily seen from as far as 20 miles
away on a clear day.
The original North Dakota State Capitol building, built
between 1883 and 1884, saw several additions through the early
1900s until it burned to the ground on the night of December 28,
1930. The fire was said to be started by oily rags in a
janitor's closet on the top floor of the building. The rags had
been used to clean and varnish the legislator's desks in
anticipation of the next legislative session. Secretary of State
Robert Byrne was able to save the original copy of the state's
constitution, but he suffered cuts and burns on his hands while
breaking a window to reach the document.
Another state employee, Jennie Ulsrud, burned her hands when she
attempted to save records in the North Dakota State Treasurer's
office. Governor George F. Shafer came back from his trip to St.
Paul, Minnesota while the fire was still burning. Upon arrival,
he immediately assembled a team of state legislators and
officials to discuss steps for coping with the loss of records
and work space. The day after the fire, in an effort to save as
many records as possible, 40 state prison inmates went to work
trying to salvage materials from the ruins.The Legislature ended
up meeting in Bismarck's War Memorial Building and the City
The Capitol grounds serve as the central hub for the state's
government departments and the numerous walking trails, parks
and monuments gave visitors insights to the state's history.
Currently, there are 6 buildings within the grounds. There were
plans for massive expansions since 2000 but very few of these
plans have been implemented as of 2007.
The building was completed during the 1934 Great Depression, it
was built to replace an old capitol building which was burned to
the ground 4 years earlier.
Within the grounds of the complex are the North Dakota Heritage
Center, the North Dakota Governor's Residence, the North Dakota
State Library, the Liberty Memorial Building and the State
Office Building. The North Dakota State Capitol Building Tower is often
lovingly referred to as "The Skyscraper on the Prairie" although
it is only 241 feet 8 inches tall. It is popular belief that the
Capitol Building Tower is the tallest structure in North Dakota,
but that honor belongs to the 2,063 foot tall KVLY TV tower (3
miles west of Blanchard, ND), which also happens to be the
tallest manmade structure in the entire World.