The Capitol Story
The iconic and majestic United States Capitol is the most widely recognized symbol of democratic government in the world. It is where the issues facing the nation are considered, debated, and written into law. Images of this national treasure have become synonymous with American strength and freedom.
The Capitol Dome
The Capitol’s iron dome, an instantly recognizable American symbol, has long been admired for its majestic beauty and its ingenious engineering.
Designed by Thomas U. Walter, the dome was influenced by classical European domes, such as St. Paul’s in London, St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg, and the Panthéon in Paris. Capt. Montgomery C. Meigs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervised much of its construction. It was especially challenging to build because it replaced an existing wooden dome (completed by Charles Bulfinch in 1824), but re-used the old rotunda walls as foundations.
Technical difficulties were easy to overcome compared to those of the Civil War, which broke out just six years after the new dome was begun. When the contractors continued installing ironwork despite wartime conditions, President Abraham Lincoln viewed the rising dome as a sign that the Union would continue as well.
Statue of Freedom
The model, which had been stored in pieces for many years, was restored in 1992 by the Architect of the Capitol with funds donated to the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission. It was on display in the Russell Senate Office Building before being moved to Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The bronze Statue of Freedom, facing east over the central entrance, crowns the dome of the United States Capitol.