CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As far as workplace settings go, this one would be hard to beat.
"This is my office," said Mary Ann Long as she pointed to the Capitol.
"I tell everybody I have the best office in the world, if not the largest."
She and other tour guides rattle off history, facts and details as they guide thousands of visitors from across the globe through West Virginia's Capitol. They do so Monday through Friday.
Last year about 17,500 people took tours, according to Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner of the Division of Culture and History.
Long has been a guide for about eight years. She often tells school groups the cost of the Capitol's construction - just under $10 million - and the length of time required to build it - eight years.
When the kids ask how much the Capitol weighs, Long says: "I haven't found a scale big enough yet to find out!"
Visitors do learn that two-thirds of the Capitol's interior is made of three types of marble: Imperial Danby, Italian Travertine and Tennessee. They also hear that there are 333 rooms in the main unit and 535,000 square feet of space in the two wings.
Gilded in 23.5-karat gold leaf, the dome stands 293 feet tall - five feet higher than the dome of the U.S. Capitol.
The exterior of the Capitol is buff Indiana limestone. More than 700 train cars of limestone and 4,640 tons of steel were used in its construction.
The chandelier in the dome hangs on a 54-foot brass and bronze chain and is suspended 180 feet from the floor. The glimmering ball is 8 feet wide and contains 10,080 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal and 96 light bulbs. It weighs 4,000 pounds.
The House of Delegates chamber and the Senate chamber are similar, but architect Cass Gilbert included some symbolic differences. The carved eagles in the Senate have spread wings, as opposed to those in the House.
Long suggests the Senate is the upper, more powerful house and an eagle with its wings spread seems more authoritative.
On the lower level, the Hall of Governors features portraits and biographical information for all of West Virginia's past executives - even the one who was around for only six days, Gov. Daniel Farnsworth.
In the Governor's Reception Room are portraits of the previous two governors. As new ones are sworn into office, the paintings are rotated into new positions.
Outside the Governor's Reception Room is a recounting of early Capitol locations. It was first in Wheeling, then Charleston, then Wheeling again and finally back to Charleston to stay.
The second Capitol in Charleston, and the fourth building used as the official home of the government, occupied a block downtown bordered by Washington, Lee, Capitol and Dickinson streets.
Ammunition that had been confiscated during unrest in the coalfields ignited, and that Capitol burned to the ground. Another Capitol was quickly built, but it also burned.
Sixty-five pieces of property between Duffy Street and California Avenue originally were purchased for the present-day Capitol Complex. Some of the houses that sat on that property were floated via barge across Kanawha River and relocated on land in the neighborhood known as South Ruffner.
The Capitol in use today was designed by the nationally renowned Gilbert, and in keeping with the trend of the time, his design included a number of mythological figures carved into the entrances.
Gov. William G. Conley dedicated the Capitol on the state's 69th birthday: June 20, 1932.
Tours of the Governor's Mansion require some planning because they are offered only on Thursday and Friday mornings. The governor and first lady do live there, Long said.
"I love doing the tours here," Long said. "It's just so beautiful."
The Georgian Revival mansion was designed by Charleston architect Walter Martens in 1924. Martens had also designed some churches and homes on Charleston's East End.
The mansion cost about $200,000 to build, and Gov. Ephraim Morgan and his wife moved into the stately new dwelling in 1925.
The Reception Hall is where the governor greets guests, Long said.
On either side is a Georgian staircase made of mahogany, and solid-cut crystal ball finials adorn the newel posts. The floor is a checkerboard pattern of black Belgium marble and white Tennessee marble.
The effect is dazzling, and the grand space wows visitors.