In order to allow for the installation of scaffolding and floor, statuary, and artwork protection in conjunction with the Dome Restoration Project, the Rotunda of the Capitol will be closed from Monday, July 27 through Monday, September 7. While the Rotunda is unavailable for tours, an alternate tour route will be provided. The Capitol Visitor Center is open during the closure of the Rotunda and will offer special activities which do not require advance reservations. You can also download our new U.S. Capitol Rotunda app.

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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