Exploring the NJ State House: A Journey Through History, Architecture, and Civic Engagement
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to visit the place where all important decisions are made? The New Jersey State House can seem intimidating at first, but once you’re there, you’ll find it’s not as intimidating as it seems. In fact, it’s a place where citizens are welcome and respected.
I’ve been to the State House three times and each time has been a unique experience. The first time I went, I was curious about what it would be like and if it would be easy to get inside. I even worried about parking. But when I arrived, an officer gave me clear instructions on where to go and the parking lot was large with plenty of spaces. The process to get inside was straightforward and not as intense as I thought it would be.
The first time I visited was to hear Brittany Maccaluso, the Policy Advocacy Coordinator for the Lesniak Institute of American Leadership, testify on a bill that aimed to protect cats and other animals from being declawed. She was awesome!
The second time, the Institute was tabling in the state house basement where members of different committees walk to get to bill hearings. Our goal was to make legislators aware that we were waiting for positive results for the causes that the Institute advocates, which includes social justice, criminal justice, animal welfare, and environmental protection.
The third and most impressive time was just a few days ago when I got to know most of the beautiful places in the State House. I had the opportunity to accompany Professor Lesniak’s Kean University class. The first thing we did was listen to part of the budget hearing on education. As students, it’s crucial to understand how money is being spent on education and what areas of education are the priorities of our representatives.
After that, we walked to different parts of the building. Every room has a story to tell. The original structure of the NJ State House was built in 1792, making it the second oldest capital in the nation currently in use. It has been remodeled over the years, so being there is like walking back in time through different eras.
The Assembly and Senate chambers have different styles. The Senate chamber, which I call the “room of history,” includes visual arts representing freedom and prosperity of New Jersey such as the Revolutionary War Battles of Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth. They also represent New Jersey’s important industries. The names of important figures of New Jerseyans are written on the dome skylight.
The Assembly chamber is beautiful in design, including a stained glass window and a skylight which allows light to illuminate the whole room. The carpet illustrates the state symbols (the Purple Violet, the Eastern Goldfinch, the Red Oak, and the Honey Bee). The first thing that captures your attention when you enter the room is the big chandelier installed in 1891 by Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company.
We also visited the Rotunda, which illustrates renaissance architecture and is decorated with stained glass, eagles, gilded ribs, and historic portraits. In addition, the hallways of the State House are decorated with portraits of the different legislators who have been Assembly Speakers and Senate Presidents throughout time.
The NJ State House is not only a place where important decisions are made, but it’s also a place of history and architecture. There’s so much to see and do there. You can participate in the different hearings, or you can go and enrich yourself with history. Regardless of why you’re there, it’s an experience you won’t forget.
About The Author:
Katya Funes is a PR and Social Media Intern at the Lesniak Institute.
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