What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Secret rooms revealed on behind-the-scenes State Capitol tour

Posted August 9, 2014 5:00 a.m. EDT

This narrow spiral staircase leads to secret rooms in the House attic. Tour guide Tiffianna Honsinger, who gives behind-the-scenes tours of the State Capitol, says she warns visitors about the staircase: "I like to tell people, ‘If you’re afraid of the dark or tight spaces, then you need to let me know because I’m going to find out in just a second.'"

— Hidden deep inside the State Capitol are steep staircases that lead to secret rooms and dark attics littered with broken whiskey bottles and names carved into wooden walls. These spaces, filled with North Carolina's history, are typically off limits, even to tour groups.

But a few times a year, the State Capitol opens its doors for behind-the-scenes tours that leave little to the imagination. State Capitol Historian Tiffianna Honsinger leads the tours and says she has to warn visitors about what they're going to experience.

"I like to tell people, ‘If you’re afraid of the dark or tight spaces, then you need to let me know, because I’m going to find out in just a second,'" she said.

Honsinger is giving four behind-the-scenes tours on Saturday, and they are all sold out. The next behind-the-scenes tour is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Each tour is limited to 10 people due to the tight spaces. Children under 10 are not allowed. Tickets are $15 each.

The one-hour tour takes visitors inside the governor's suite, outdoor porticoes and some of the attic space. Honsinger gave WRAL a preview of the tour on Thursday.

"The stairs are wooden and very old, so you’ll feel them dip in places," she warned before making her way up the steep stairs.

"Jump over the edge of the stairwell," she instructed, before making the tricky step from the stairs into a small door in the wall that leads to a porthole overlooking the rotunda.

"If you want, I offer to people on the tour to scoot on their stomachs and take a picture," she said.

Anyone taking the tour should wear comfortable clothes and shoes due to the amount of walking in tight, hot spaces.

"It’s quite a maneuvering feat," Honsinger said.

The State Capitol's mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square. The Capitol is surrounded by Edenton, Salisbury, Morgan and Wilmington streets. For more information about the behind-the-scenes tour and regular group tours, visit www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol or call 919-733-4994.