Due to a special event, on Wednesday, July 8, there will be no tours of the U.S. Capitol after 11 a.m. Emancipation Hall and Exhibition Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center will be unavailable all day. While reservations prior to 11 a.m. will be honored, same-day passes will not be available. The Capitol Visitor Center will close at noon except for individuals on official business and those going to the House and Senate Galleries.

The Capitol's Cornerstone

Ceremonies to commemorate the construction of a great public building can be traced to the ancient world and were particularly important to builders in the Middle Ages. The laying of a cornerstone is a symbolic act that celebrates humanity’s need to build and be remembered. On September 18, 1793, President George Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone in a ceremony attended by representatives of Masonic lodges from Maryland and Virginia, an artillery company, the city commissioners, and local residents.

History of Congress and the Capitol

The Capitol 1789-1815

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George Washington's Seal,...
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George Washington's Seal, gold and carnelian, 1794

George Washington was given this seal to commemorate the laying of the U.S. Capitol’s cornerstone. The seal itself, used to close documents, is carved with Washington’s initials and coat of arms. It is set in a gold fob, engraved with inscriptions that refer to Washington’s membership in the Masons, who also took part in the cornerstone ceremonies.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Ambassador and Mrs. Mel Sembler

George Washington's Seal, gold and carnelian, 1794

George Washington was given this seal to commemorate the laying of the U.S. Capitol’s cornerstone. The seal itself, used to close documents, is carved with Washington’s initials and coat of arms. It is set in a gold fob, engraved with inscriptions that refer to Washington’s membership in the Masons, who also took part in the cornerstone ceremonies.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Ambassador and Mrs. Mel Sembler

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