From Gov. Robert La Follette, who laid plans for the current state Capitol after helping battle the blaze that leveled its predecessor, to the current governor, Scott Walker, Wisconsin's statehouse has produced leaders at the vanguard of movements that stretched far beyond the state's borders.
Forged from different backgrounds and often pursuing widely divergent agendas, these leaders were nevertheless united by a kind of "optimistic faith in self-government," said Michael Edmonds, historian and author of "The Wisconsin Capitol."
"The people who created (the Capitol) envisioned it as a monument to the idea of self-government, a shrine to the American experiment in democracy," Edmonds said.
For the last 100 years, Wisconsin's experiment included the progressive movement of the early 20th century, of which La Follette was a nationally revered leader.
It continued through Gov. Tommy Thompson's welfare and school-choice overhauls of the 1990s, to the seismic shifts accompanying Walker's rollback of collective bargaining starting in 2011.
It included Melvin Laird, who rose from the state Legislature to head the U.S. Defense Department in 1969, becoming the architect of the U.S. drawdown from Vietnam and of the modern volunteer armed forces.
State Rep. Lloyd Barbee was part of the experiment. At a time when Milwaukee's schools were strictly segregated by race, Barbee set out to change that.
So was UW-Madison professor Kathryn Clarenbach, who used her role on a state commission to help launch the national feminist movement.
"These people became not just important nationally, but became leaders nationally," said Ed Miller, a professor and expert on state politics at UW-Stevens Point. "All states can't say that."