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"Congressional Library Building, view of Great Hall,” Smithmeyer and Pelz, architects, ink on paper, 1888

Designed in the Italian Renaissance style by the Washington, D.C., firm of Smithmeyer and Pelz, the new congressional library included a grand entrance hall, richly decorated galleries, a domed reading room and ample space for books, maps, music, graphic arts, and other collections. It immediately became an acclaimed Washington attraction.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

"Congressional Library Building, view of Great Hall,” Smithmeyer and Pelz, architects, ink on paper, 1888

The Library's New Home

Established by Congress in 1800 and housed in the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress was intended as a resource for legislators. From its initial collection of 740 books and three maps, its holdings expanded in all areas of knowledge. In the 1870 Copyright Act, Congress stipulated that copies of protected works be deposited in the library, and the collections rapidly overflowed the space. In 1897, the library relocated to a monumental new building commissioned by Congress.