Due to a special Joint Meeting of Congress taking place in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, the U.S. Capitol will be closed to tours until approximately 12:30 p.m. on that day. The Capitol Visitor Center will remain open throughout the day, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and guided tours of the Capitol Visitor Center will be available while the Capitol is closed.

Designing the Capitol

Pierre L’Enfant laid out the streets of Washington, D.C., but failed to produce designs for public buildings as requested. To fill this gap, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson proposed an architectural competition for the new Capitol in 1792. The contest offered entrants a city lot—and a cash prize of $500. It drew about thirteen applicants, including soldiers, teachers, judges, and craftsmen originally from Ireland, France, England, Germany, and America.

The competition entries disappointed President Washington. The designs lacked the dignity and stateliness he had expected. No prizes were awarded until, early in 1793, Dr. William Thornton presented a plan that President Washington praised for its “grandeur, simplicity, and beauty.” Thornton had envisioned a Capitol with the classical elegance, sophistication, and grand scale that Washington wanted.