Rebuilding after the War of 1812

Capitol restoration began soon after the fires of 1814 were out. B. Henry Latrobe, who had been Jefferson’s "surveyor of public buildings," was hired to restore the two wings.

The project went beyond simple restoration, however. Changes in Congress prompted changes in the building’s interior. Chief among these were eight new rooms in the north wing for Senate committees. Latrobe also enlarged the House and Senate chambers, modifying their layout to better suit their operations. In plan and decoration, these spaces recalled the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. To ensure that the work was both elegant and economical, one of the sculptors returned to Italy—where labor was cheaper—to supervise the carving of column capitals.

  • “Section of the House Chamber” (detail), by B. Henry Latrobe, 1815

    After the fire of 1814, Latrobe redesigned the House Chamber along the lines of a classical theater.

    Prints and Photographs Division, Library of  Congress

  • Letter to Thomas Jefferson from B. Henry Latrobe, November 5, 1816

    Latrobe’s letter included a sketch of column capitals with a tobacco-leaf motif.

    Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

  • Preliminary Design for the Small Senate Rotunda, by B. Henry Latrobe, ca. 1816

    Preliminary Design for the Small Senate Rotunda, by B. Henry Latrobe, ca. 1816

    An opening in the dome let light and air into the space.

    Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

  • Old Brick Capitol, Mathew Brady, 1865

    During the Capitol restoration, Congress met in a brick building located on the site of today’s Supreme Court.

    National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.