The Pennsylvania State Capitol is an architectural gem that graces the Harrisburg skyline. And for all the beauty of the shining green dome that greets every visitor, the treasures on the inside of the building are every bit as stunning.
Some people enter thinking, “it's just a state capitol building.” They come out wanting to see and hear more. It's because the building is alive with incredible stories about art, innovation and architecture. It's because each tour guide delivers the history of the building with the energy expected from someone who's lucky enough to work every day in “A Palace of Art.”
One story that seems to strike each visitor? Clocks. At the back of the State Supreme Court room, a beautiful clock rather unassumingly keeps time. It's position along the back wall is modest in comparison to the elaborate wall murals and the light that shines through the room's huge domed ceiling. There's nothing modest, though about this time piece's place in the building's history. It's one of more than 200 clocks at the Capitol Complex – all of which must be hand wound every week. For more than 100 years, the clocks have been set by hand, with careful attention to gears and oil and casing and periodically taken out of service for restoration, rest and repair. (Story continues after the video.)
Johnson & Griffiths Studio of Harrisburg currently holds the contract to maintain the Capitol Clocks. Owner Jeff Johnson heads to the Capitol every Thursday morning to begin his rounds. First, the Governor's reception area and office. Then, onto other staff offices, caucus and meeting rooms. Thursday isn't enough though. A second clock winder comes in to finish on Friday. All told, it takes about 10 hours to wind all the clocks. It seems a bit ironic to watch the clock winders pull out a smartphone to check the time against the classic clocks they've so delicately adjusted. 220 times over, every week!
The clock in the Supreme Court is one of a handful designed by the building's architect, Joseph Huston. It features the Keystone and state seal. It's also special because the public has access to the room (when court is not in session), where the other clocks – including some one-of-a-kind mantle clocks like the one pictured above - are found in non-public spaces.
Find out more about this beautiful - if not "timeless" - building with free guided (or unguided) tours available 7 days a week, year-round.