Bulfinch Takes Charge

Charles Bulfinch of Boston took over the restoration from Latrobe in 1818. The north and south wings reopened in the fall of 1819. Work on the middle building (connecting the wings) began on August 24, 1818, the fourth anniversary of the British fire. It concluded eight years later.

Bulfinch designed and built the rotunda, or "grand vestibule," which stood 96 feet across and 96 feet high—the proportions of Rome's ancient Pantheon. On the outside, he built a very tall wooden dome, responding to President James Monroe's request for a prominent and visible structure. Bulfinch also landscaped the Capitol's 22-acre garden and built earthen terraces on the west front. When Bulfinch retired in 1829, the Capitol was finished—36 years after George Washington had laid its cornerstone.

  • Portrait of Charles Bulfinch (detail), by George Matthews, 1931, after a drawing by Alvan Clark, 1842

    Portrait of Charles Bulfinch (detail), by George Matthews, 1931, after a drawing by Alvan Clark, 1842

    Architect of the Capitol

  • Dome Studies, by Charles Bulfinch, ca. 1822

    These drawings illustrate Bulfinch’s early thoughts about the dome’s height and proportion. Later, President James Monroe ordered the dome to be built taller.

    Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

  • The Rotunda, by Alexander Jackson Davis, ca. 1832

    The Capitol’s great circular vestibule was intended to be a reduced-scale reproduction of Rome’s ancient Pantheon.

    Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York

  • The Capitol, John Plumbe, 1846

    This daguerreotype is thought to be the oldest photograph of the Capitol.

    Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress