On October 29, 1871, the crowning ornament, a gold-plated copper ball, was affixed to the cupola at the apex of the Capitol. This ball, nearly three feet in diameter, was part of Rueben Clark’s original plans.
Not everyone, however, was happy with the design. Gordon Cummings, the second Capitol architect, expressed his displeasure for the ornament to the Capitol Commissioners. Minutes of a June 1872 meeting reflect that Cummings, citing his own and “universal public opinion,” urged the Commission to authorize the purchase of a bronze statue, which he argued would be more suitable than the gold ball which was “simply ridiculous and abominable.” He warned the Commission that, if the change was not authorized, “whatever may be the other beauties of the building and grounds, the defect will forever remain a slur on our taste…” Cummings went as far as soliciting estimates for a statue, including a bronze sculpture inspired by American artist Hiram Powers’ “California.” The exact reason is unknown, but the statue never became a reality.
Interesting Fact: Gilding the Cupola
In July 1880 the Capitol building received a another spectacular embellishment-the gilding of the cupola roof directly below the ball. This sparkling gold enhancement made the Capitol an even more attractive focal point from around the city.
According to the July 14, 1880, edition of the Sacramento Bee
, "When completed, the work will add much to the appearance of the building, and will have a fine effect at a distance of several miles from the city. It will also perhaps be of service to surveyors in prosecuting their labors, as under the sun's rays, the gilded top will be discernable from every point of the compass."