Tennessee State Capitol

Posted by blogger in Nashville Ghost Tours
Tennessee State Capitol - Photo

If you looked at the state capitol, you would never believe the stories behind it. You probably would also never guess that it is one of the most haunted places in Tennessee. This is a beautiful building with a lot of history. Sometimes more than you bargained for. If you visit the capital you may hear two men arguing and we will talk about that a little later.


History of the Building

The first stone of the capitol building was laid on the Fourth of July in 1845. William Strickland is the man who designed the building. He was also the supervisor of the construction until he had passed away in April of 1854. There were two architects that would assist in the completion of the building. The first was the son of Strickland. His name was Francis. He would be the architect of the building for the next three years. The last stone of the building was laid on July 21st in 1855.

It was Francis Strickland who had designed all the cast-iron roof decorations. These decorations would be cast in Nashville as well. They were cast by a man named T.M. Brenan. It was in 1857 that the commissioner of the building would dismiss Strickland. They would then hire a man named Harvey Akeroyd a year later to design the last room that was in the building. This last room was the State Library. The building’s construction was officially completed in 1859. However, the landscaping and yard work would continue until the Civil War would start. Because of the war, the two gasoliers that were needed for the stairs would never be ordered.

The inside of the capitol includes the space on the ground floor that has the office for the governor. There are also offices for the secretary of state and their treasurer. They also have their State Archives, register of the land, and the Tennessee Supreme Court on this floor. Lastly, they have a federal district court. You can find assembly halls to be used by the Senate and House of Reps as well as committee rooms. The State Library is located on the main floor. The State Library is considered to be the finest room in the whole building. The library has many beautiful features that include iron stacks, cast-iron spiral stairs, and galleries. The iron for the library came from Wood Perot Company.


Design and Construction

The hill where the capitol is located was a prominent Nashville Hilltop. It was also occupied by a cathedral. The cathedral is no longer existent. The land also had a Roman Catholic church. This church was the first of this kind in Nashville.

As you read above, the capital would be designed by William Strickland. He was from Philadelphia and was known for his work. The design for the capitol was modeled after an Ionic Greek temple. It is considered a lantern structure. The lantern structure can be found on the roofline of the capitol. This is based on a monument in Athens. This monument honors Dionysus. Dionysus is a Greek God and he is recognized for battling with the Tyrrhenian pirates. The first brick was laid on the Fourth of July in 1845. However, the building would not be fully finished for another fourteen years.

This building is considered an engineering landmark. This is because it has a lot of innovative construction. Plus, it used a lot of stone and was a very early example of how to use structural iron. The exterior and interior utilize limestone. This limestone came from a quarry only a mile away from the building site. There are columns on the inside of the building that would use a single stone. These large pieces would require large wooden derricks to help put them into their spot. The design used wrought iron instead of using wood for the trusses of the roof. This was to reduce the risk of fire.

The capitol was built using commercial labor, slave labor, and convict labor. They had used fifteen black men to help carve the cellar that was made of limestone. These men worked for two years. The stonemason in charge of the slaves was paid only eighteen dollars a month for the labor of his slaves. This project is one of the most significant projects where the government of Tennessee had utilized the labor of slaves.

The architect would die five years before the building would be completed. He was buried on the land near the northeastern wall. His son would then supervise the construction until it was completed. William Strickland had designed the cathedral that is located on the bottom of the hill and a church that is a few blocks away from the capitol.

Samual Dold Morgan was a chairman of the building commission. He would oversee the construction of the building as well. He is also buried on the land. He can be found near the southern entrance.



William Strickland had been hired for the design of the building. He would move from Philadelphia to complete this job, and move back home. However, the legislature was worried about spending too much money so they decided to hire another man named Samuel Morgan to oversee the project. Samual was from Virginia. He was not only an architect but a merchant and a builder. Morgan was the president and he was the one who chose William as the architect to design the building. Once William landed in Nashville, problems began to occur.

The project was a nine-year battle. Strickland and Morgan disliked each other severely. They would often be seen screaming. They would scream all the time back and forth.

In 1854, Strickland passed away and was buried in the northeast corner. Morgan died in 1880 and was buried in the southeast corner.

It is believed that the men had fought so much that they would be buried in different corners of the structure. Some even state that the yelling and arguing continues to this day.


The police have been called several times for reports of loud arguing, however, when they arrive no one is there. The police hear the arguing but can never find anyone there. This battle is always going, however, there are other interesting tales surrounding the capitol as well.

One story involves a Confederate soldier. He has been seen inside and outside of the building. People who were hired to renovate the capitol have reported some strange instances too. They would be shoved hard or even told in a loud stern voice not to touch or move anything. It was at this time the ghost would move everything back to where it belonged.

The more well-known stories include the spirits that are around President James’s tomb. He was referred to as a dark horse. He was also the last Jacksonian to be in the White House. He was a president until the Civil War. When Polk had gotten into office he had included Oregon, New Mexico, and California to the nation.

The president would serve one term and retire in Nashville. He would not live very long, only three more months. Mrs. Polk, his wife, would live for another 42 years. After his death, she would always wear black. She was buried next to her husband at the age of 82. Their bodies were then re-interred on the state capitol grounds. Stories state that you can see the bodies of his wife and the president. It is believed that moving the bodies has stirred up spirits too. People have seen dark shapes near their tombs and some can even be seen on images.