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Capitol Area Memorials & Monuments

Background Information

Commemorative artwork is a monument, memorial, or other type of original piece in any style, expression, genre, or media that is the unique creative expression of an artist designed to memorialize cultural, social, and political aspects of Minnesota's history. A commemorative artwork expresses or reflects the collective memory of an individual person, group, or event. Commemorative artwork serves four primary functions: 

    A. to memorialize and remember; 

    B. to inform and inspire the viewer; 

    C. to have lasting historic and cultural significance; and 

    D. to accentuate and enhance the urban landscape. 

Commemorative artwork may be event-based, temporary, or long-term.

The artworks on the Minnesota Capitol Mall are identified and described in the links on this webpage.

Videos are also available that describe the planning, design and history of five prominent State Capitol memorials. The narrator is former CAAPB Executive Secretary Paul Mandell and the moderator is Shannon Loehrke. The five videos highlight veterans of the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War, military families, Minnesota workers, women's suffrage, and the Minnesota Capitol building.

Capitol Report: Featuring State Capitol Memorials and Tributes (published August 8, 2019). 

Leif Erikson
Leif Erikson is considered to be the first known European to reach North America in 1000 A.D. The monument was formally dedicated on October 9, 1949 in a ceremony attended by 3,000 to 5,000 people including dignitaries from Norway, Iceland, and Alaska. Sculptor: John Karl Daniels; dedicated in 1949.
image: Leif Erikson
Created in 1906 by Daniel Chester French (the same sculptor responsible for Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington) and Edward Potter, “Quadriga: Progress of the State” stands at the base of the Minnesota State Capitol’s dome. The sculpture shows a man on a chariot driving four horses and flanked by two women. The man represents the state’s drive for progress and prosperity. The four horses represent the forces of nature (earth, fire, water and air) and are controlled by the two women who represent industry and agriculture (or civilization collectively). Sculptors: Daniel Chester French and Edward Potter; dedicated in 1906.
image: Quadriga
Transportation Worker Memorial
"I chose a bridge motif because it represents how we help connect our state's vast boundaries. A bridge that lets us into the future but also connects us to our past. We must never forget those who lost their lives." - Trent Weber, a MnDOT employee whose concept was chosen for the memorial. Located in the Minnesota Department of Transportation building, the Transportation Worker Memorial commemorates MnDOT employees and contract workers who have lived a life of public service, and to those who have been injured or killed on the job. The bridge's missing support in the center reminds us of workers who were lost. Designer: Wold Architects and Engineers; Chief Architect: Guy Davidson; dedicated on April 28, 2000.
image: Transportation Worker Memorial
Judicial Plaza
The Judicial Center Plaza is a public space and amphitheater with stones scattered about the premises to represent Greek ruins. The project was funded by Minnesota Percent for the Arts in Public Places program. Sculptor: Richard Fleischner, 1990
image: Judicial Plaza
Floyd B. Olson
Floyd B. Olson (1891-1936) was the governor of Minnesota from 1931-1936 during the Great Depression, serving until his death in office. He was a leader of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and the first of its member to win the office of governor. There is another bronze statue of Olson at Penn Avenue and Highway 55 (Olson Memorial Highway). Both sculptures were made by the Brioschi Studio. Carlo Brioschi and his son, Amerigo were Italian-American sculptors and worked out of a studio on what is now University Avenue and North Victoria Street. The Brioschi-Minuti Studio and Showroom still stands today and is a uniform supply store. Sculptor: Carlo and Amerigo Brioschi; dedicated in 1958 as part of the Statehood Centennial
image: Floyd B. Olson
John Johnson
John Albert Johnson (1861-1909) was the first native-born governor in the state and served from 1905-1909. The figures on the pedestal represent Minnesota's first major industries: iron mining, agriculture, manufacturing and lumbering. Sculptor: Andrew O'Connor; dedicated in 1912.
image: John Johnson
Knute Nelson
Born in Voss, Norway, Knute Nelson was the state's first foreign-born governor, serving from 1893-1895. He also holds the record as longest serving Minnesotan in the U.S. (28 years). The figures on the pedestal depict him as a child with his Norwegian mother and as a Civil War soldier. Sculptor: John Karl Daniels; dedicated in 1928.
image: Knute Nelson
Christopher Columbus
The 10-foot tall bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus was dedicated on October 12, 1931 and was presented as a gift from Minnesota's Italian-Americans. The sculpture sits on a red granite base embellished with carvings of sea shells and fish around the top and on either sides are eagles with spread wings atop globe-shaped spheres. Sculptor: Carlo Brioschi, dedicated on October 12, 1931; restoration and preservation efforts in 1992.
image: Christopher Columbus
Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial
"It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped." -- Hubert H. Humphrey, 1977. Humphrey served as Mayor of the City of Minneapolis from 1945-1948, as United States Senator from 1971-1978, and Vice-President of the United States from 1965-1969. Sculptors: Jeff and Anna Koh Varilla; Site Design: Jeff Martin, DSU; dedicated on August 4, 2012.
image: Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial
Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial
"No one can tell what the world has lost because of the idea that girls were inferior beings to their brothers. How many aspiring girls have been disheartened and discouraged by the public sentiment that they were not good enough or fine enough to do the things their immortal souls craved to do." - Clara Ueland, community activist, suffragist, and the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. For more than 150 years, American women were denied the basic right of citizenship even as they were expected to conform to laws they had no part in making. With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26, 1920, women could go to the polls and participate fully in the political process. The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial honors twenty-five Minnesota women for their leadership in the national seventy-two year struggle to win the vote. The garden design reflects glacial formations, representative of the time it took to get the vote, the lattice represents the walls or obstacles present. Sculptor: Raveevarn Choksombatchai and Ralph Nelson; Landscape Designer: Roger Grothe, Aloha Landcaping; dedicated on August 26, 2000.
image: Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial
Charles Lindbergh
"I used to imagine myself with wings on which I could swoop down off our roof into the valley soaring through the air from one river bank to another." -- Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974). The bronze statues represent Lindbergh as a boy dreaming of flying and as a man who accomplished that dream, honoring the Minnesota aviator who made the first solo trans-Atlantic airplane flight in 1927. Sculptor: Paul T. Granlund; dedicated in 1985.
image: Charles Lindbergh
Roy Wilkins Memorial
"We must truly see others as ourselves and all as our nation - our common and glorious heritage built upon man and his freedom. For this is what our country is about." -- Roy Wilkins, 1966. The 46 central elements in this sculpture composition is a "Spiral for Justice," representing the 46 years of Roy Wilkins' leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its fight for social and economic justice for all Americans. Sculptor: Curtis Patterson; dedicated on November of 1995.
image: Roy Wilkins Memorial
Special Forces in Laos Memorial
The creation of the Minnesota Memorial to The Special Forces in Laos was driven by the children who survived the "Secret War" in Laos from 1961 to 1975, and completed by the Hmong and Lao Veterans Statue Committee. The Memorial is built to commemorate the Hmong, Lao and other combat veterans and their American advisors, trainers, volunteers and forgotten heroes who served and fought to maintain peace and freedom in Southeast Asia. Sculptor: Marjorie Pitz; Site Design: Kathryn Ryan and Greg Brown, AECOM; dedicated on June 11, 2016.
image: Special Forces in Laos Memorial
Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial
This memorial was designed to express honor and remembrance, while acknowledging valor and service, and affirming the need to grieve as well as to experience an earlier time of innocence before the war. The dark green granite wall commemorates the more than 1,000 Minnesotans who were killed or who are missing as a result of the war. Visitors can walk into a 56' by 30' outdoor plaza in the shape of Minnesota composed of a 68,000 - 2" square grid representing the number of Minnesotans who served in Vietnam. The dark green granite squares denote the hometowns of those killed or missing. The key theme of homecoming is further introduced with a representation of a limestone house facade. The memorial was funded by State bond funds and a majority of private contributions. Designers: Nina Ackerberg, Stanton Sears, Jake Castillo and Rich Laffin; dedicated on September 26, 1992.
image: Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Minnesota World War II Veterans Memorial
More than 320,000 Minnesotans of all races and religions served in the armed forces of the United States during World War II. 1,250 were held as Prisoners of War during the conflict, and more than 6,000 gave their lives. Ten were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The stories of ordinary people within the great events of history are central to the design of this memorial. The memorial represents a journey through the darkness and despair of war to hope and to peace. From this location, a visitor looking towards the capitol encounters a sacred space set slightly below ground level. Narrative panels containing a timeline of World War II and stories specific to Minnesota surround the rising plane. Designers: Ben Sporer, Todd Hallunes, Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears; Landscape Architect: Bryan D. Carlson; dedicated in June of 2007.
image: Minnesota World War II Veterans Memorial
Court of Honor
The curved walls on either side of the Minnesota WWII Veterans Memorial display bronze plaques commemorating the men and women who gave their lives in various wars, including the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and World War I and II. One of Cass Gilbert's original designs of the approach to the Capitol Building included a memorial to veterans located in the south side of the Capitol mall.
image: Court of Honor
Minnesota Korean War Veterans Memorial
As you enter the memorial, the soldier, in winter clothing is looking for his lost comrades. His expression is of a young man grown too old too soon. The silhouette image created in the monolith represents Minnesotans who did not return from Korea. Near the rear of the memorial, paving stones on the right side are engraved with a chronological account of the war. Small columns list the names of the 748 Minnesotans who died in the Korean War. Sculptor: Art Norby. Landscape architects: Bob Kost and Dean Olson; dedicated on September 18, 1998.
image: Minnesota Korean War Veterans Memorial
Minnesota Workers Memorial Garden
"Free hands and slave hands, indentured hands, adventurous hands, white hands and black hands held the plow handles, axe handles, hammer handles, launched the boats and whipped the horses that fed and housed and moved America. Thus together through labor, all these hands made America." - Langston Hughes, from "Freedom's Plow." This memorial is dedicated to all Minnesotans that have given their lives in the workplace. The stone and porcelain mural, created and installed by Saint Paul artist Craig David was completed in spring 2016, along with the final inscription acknowledging those major Minnesotan disasters that caused numerous fatalities. The memorial was re-dedicated in that year, again with keynote by former Vice-President Walter Mondale, whose words from 2010 were also captured on the wall. Mural Design: Craig David; Sculptor: Mark Wickstrom; Lanscape Architects: Jean Garbarini and Jennifer Germain of Close Landscape Architects; dedicated on August 3, 2010, and re-dedicated in 2016
image: Minnesota Workers Memorial Garden
Military Family Tribute: Gold Star Table
The Minnesota Military Family Tribute honors and thanks all Minnesota family members of those who serve in all branches of the armed forces; past, present and future. This tribute recognizes the tremendous sacrifices made by the family and the never-ending support family members provide to our military personnel. The Gold Star Table on the west side of the Thank You Military and Veteran Family Walkway recognizes the supreme sacrifice of our Gold Star Families. A Gold Star used since 1917 to acknowledge the loss of a loved one while in military service, provides the foundation for the table. The bronze table recalls the place we come together to share a meal, stories and laughter. It is a place of gathering, reflecting, and creating memories. The tabletop is penetrated by stars of the Northern Hemisphere's constellations. At the center, the North Star orients the lost and reminds us of the Minnesota motto: L'Etoile du Nord, The Star of the North. Designer: Theodore Lee, HGA Architects and Engineers; Fabricator: MG McGrath; dedicated on June 13, 2015.
image: Military Family Tribute: Gold Star Table
Military Family Tribute: Story Stones
The Story Stones on the east side of the Thank You Military and Veteran Family Walkway consist of 87 stones - representing the 87 counties in Minnesota which are arranged into clusters of nine northern hemisphere constellations. The stones mark the connection between loved ones that are deployed, their families at home, and the shared stars of the night sky. Excerpts from the correspondence sent between soldiers and family members etched onto these stones provide a window into the lives of our military families and their sacrifices, as well as imparting a strong educational component. Designer: Theodore Lee, HGA Architects and Engineers; dedicated on June 13, 2015.
image: Military Family Tribute: Story Stones
Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial
Since 1881, 217 Minnesota firefighters have died in the line of duty. The statue was moved from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport to the State Capitol grounds - an effort lead by the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation to improve visitor accessibility. The grid of weathering steel columns rusts over time - a process reflecting oxidation of fire. Names of Minnesota's fallen firefighters are inscribed on the columns with room in the grid for additional columns and inscriptions in the future, making it a living monument. The wall greeting visitors to the site is inscribed with names of the 791 fire departments throughout the state. Sculptor of original bronze statue: Douglas O. Freeman; Architect: Leo A Daly; Engineer: Westwood Professional Services; dedicated on September 30, 2012.
image: Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial
Monument to the Living
3.5 meter tall statue of hammered steel, portraying a nineteen-year-old soldier in full combat gear, asking a question that can be phrased a hundred different ways. For many of us it asks, "Why do you forget us?" Sculptor: Rodger M. Brodin; dedicated on May 22, 1982.
image: Monument to the Living
Promise of Youth
The fountain symbolizes the youth of the country who are looking for the promise of peace. The confines of the Promise of Youth reflecting pool is the site of the proposed Medal of Honor Memorial. The Minnesota Medal of Honor memorial will be among the first honoring recipients of all its Medal of Honor recipients along with other medals while intentionally inspiring and educating youth and the public with character values and virtues our recipients leave as their legacy. These virtues and values are courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity and commitment. The memorial will re-purpose and re-activate the Promise of Youth statue and water feature, located at the main entry to the Capitol Mall from the south end with an unobstructed view of the Capitol Building. It will provide space for reflection and contemplation between the ‘Garden of Contemplation’ and the ‘Court of Reflection’, the latter immediately surrounding the new water feature and surrounded by walls with the values embedded it them. Fund raising continues and construction is anticipated in summer or 2018, assuming the needed funds are secured. Sculptor: Alonzo Hauser, dedicated in 1958.
image: Promise of Youth
U.S.S. Ward Gun
The U.S.S. Ward Gun became an historic chapter in military history on December 7, 1941, when it fired the first shot in the defense of the United States of America in World War II, sinking an enemy submarine off Peal Harbor, Hawaii. The gun was mounted on the destroyer U.S.S. Ward and was manned by a crew of Minnesota Naval Reservists. On May 10 of Statehood week in the centennial year of 1958, this gun was presented to the state by the U.S. Navy and dedicated to all Minnesotans who have served in the defense of our country. Acquired from: U.S.S. Ward Gunship; dedicated on May 10, 1958.
image: U.S.S. Ward Gun
Peace Officers Memorial
On May 18, 1882, St. Paul Police Officer Daniel O'Connell was killed in the line of duty. He was the first officer in Minnesota who sacrificed his life while serving the citizens of this state. This memorial honors all those who have made this same sacrifice throughout our state as they carried out their duties to make our lives better and safer. It honors all of our peace officers who serve our communities with great pride and dedication. This memorial is designed to pay tribute to all of our peace officers, past and present, but especially to those who gave their lives for us. Their courage and their sacrifice has not been forgotten. Designers: Fred Richter and Mark Wentzell; dedicated on June of 1995.
image: Peace Officers Memorial
Earthbound Monument
"Earthbound, Made Captive, Yet Deserving Freedom More." - John Milton, English poet (engraved in the base). This 1956 marble sculpture by John Karl Daniels, a Norwegian-American features a man bound by stone and is dedicated to those who served the nation in war. Sculptor: John Karl Daniels; dedicated in 1956.
image: Earthbound Monument
Liberty Bell
This is one of fifty-three replicas of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia cast in 1950 through the United States Savings Bonds Drive. Cast of the Bell by The U.S. Department of the Treasury in coordination with the Paccard Foundry in France; dedicated in 1950.
image: Liberty Bell
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