ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Dome from Alabama's First Capitol Building
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Dome from Alabama's First Capitol Building
Dome of Alabama's First Capitol
The copper-plated dome now rests atop an
octagonal steeple on the historic C.M.E. Church in
Lowndesboro, Alabama.
Dome from the First Capitol
The steeple atop the historic
old C.M.E. Church in
Lowndesboro is topped by
the dome from Alabama's first
state capitol building.
Dome atop the C.M.E. Church
The historic C.M.E. Church
was built in the early 1830s
through the support of Major
William Robinson, a local
Dome from Alabama's First Capitol - Lowndesboro, Alabama
Historic C.M.E. Church, ca. 1830
Alabama's First Capitol Dome
The little copper-plated dome
once stood atop the Alabama
State Capitol building at Old
Cahawba. The building no
longer exists, but the dome
One of the most unexpected landmarks in
Alabama actually sits atop the historic C.M.E.
Church in
Lowndesboro, more than one
hour's drive east of its original location.

The noteworthy 1830 church is the home of
the original dome from Alabama's first state
capitol building. It was moved there after the
town of
Old Cahawba lost its status as state
capital to Tuscaloosa in 1826. The capital
was eventually moved to
Montgomery and the
original building is now an archaeological
site. The dome, however, still survives.

When Alabama officially became a state in
1819, the legislature first met in Huntsville,
which also can lay claim to being a state
capital of Alabama. While meeting there, the
legislators designated the bluff at the
confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba
Rivers as the permanent site for a new
capital city.

Surveying of the new town, called Cahawba
(an earlier spelling of Cahaba), went forward
immediately and by 1820 construction was
well underway on a wood-frame building that
would serve as Alabama's first official state
capitol building. The structure stood near the
heart of Cahawba and featured the unique
dome that can be seen today atop the church
in Lowndesboro.

Despite its early promise as an ideal location
for a capital city, things did not go well for Old
Cahawba. Floods became an instant
problem and the surrounding swamps were
breeding grounds for swarms of mosquitoes
that spread fever and sickness over the town,
causing many to die. Second-guessing
themselves amidst intense lobbying by other
communities, the legislators voted to move
the capital to Tuscaloosa.

As a result, Old Cahawba became a city with
a state capitol building, but no state officials
to use it. Although the town would thrive
again during the years leading up to the Civil
War (or War Between the States as it is
usually known in Alabama), its capital status
was gone for good.

The site of the original capitol building is now
just a grassy area on the tour of the Old
Cahawba Archaeological Site near Selma,
but in what may be one of the most unusual
circumstances in American history, the
copper-plated dome of the old building can
still be seen.

In around 1830, a wealthy planter of the
Lowndesboro area began a drive to build a
beautiful new Methodist-Protestant (now
C.M.E.) Church in that town. Major William
Robinson envisioned his community as a
place of beauty and prosperity and wanted its
churches to reflect that status.
With support from other community
members, Robinson's dream was realized
with the construction of Lowndesboro's
beautiful old C.M.E. Church. It is thought to
have been completed before 1833.

Built in a style then common, the church
faced west with a portico supported by four
columns providing shelter to congregation
members as the entered or left the building.
Two doors led in, one for men and one for
women, and stairs just inside the doors led
up to a balcony seating area.

Atop the structure is a unique octagonal
steeple that soars high above the grounds
and presents an inspiring sight, especially
on blue sunny days. And atop the steeple is
the copper-plated dome from Alabama's first
state capitol building.

It was brought to Lowndesboro for that
purpose during the antebellum era and is the
only part of the original capitol building,
except perhaps for underground ruins, that
still survives.

To see the dome, turn north from U.S.
Highway 80 onto South Broad Street (County
Road 23) at Lowndesboro. South Broad
becomes the primary street of the town and
the historic C.M.E. Church will be ahead on
your right.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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