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.

A Hall of Heroes

What to do with an empty room? After the House moved to its new chamber in 1857, its former hall filled with peddlers hawking everything from gingerbread cakes to mousetraps. History-minded citizens and members of Congress deplored its sorry condition. Some suggested rebuilding the room into offices. Others advocated a fine-art gallery.

Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont proposed converting the chamber into a National Statuary Hall, displaying figures of notable Americans. States would be asked to donate two bronze or marble statues of deceased men or women worthy of commemoration. A new marble floor would help the room play this new role. President Abraham Lincoln signed Morrill’s proposal into law on July 2, 1864. The tradition continues today, though statues now are distributed throughout the building.

History of Congress and the Capitol

The Capitol 1851-1877

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National Statuary Hall, ca. 1890
Image Caption

National Statuary Hall, ca. 1890

National Statuary Hall, ca. 1890

Architect of the Capitol

National Statuary Hall, ca. 1890

National Statuary Hall, ca. 1890

Architect of the Capitol

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