Rethinking the East and West

The Virginia sandstone facing the Capitol’s center building had deteriorated seriously by the mid-1900s, and its details were hidden beneath layers of paint. One way to solve these problems—and gain much-needed office space—was by building marble-faced additions to the east and west fronts. An east extension (first suggested in 1863) would also provide greater visual support for the iron dome.

House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas single-handedly secured funds for the east extension, completed in 1962. The west front project had a far different fate. Architects and historic preservationists raised a storm of protest when the idea for its extension was proposed in 1964. After years of rancorous debate, Congress rejected it. Instead, Congress ordered restoration of the west front, which was accomplished from 1983 to 1987.