The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation's legislature. The Capitol also houses an important collection of American art, and it is an architectural achievement in its own right. It is a working office building as well as a tourist attraction visited by millions every year.
Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the great westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.
The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center is the newest addition to this historic complex. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is the largest project in the Capitol's more than two-century history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility is located underground on the east side of the Capitol so as not to detract from the appearance of the Capitol and the grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874.