The Capitol

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View of Congress Library. . . Capitol, Washington, by Alexander Jackson Davis and Stephen H. Gimber, pen and ink and wash on paper, 1832

Fri, 2013-04-19 11:13 -- administrator

Until 1897 the Library of Congress was located in the Capitol and was one of the most popular rooms in the building. People came to browse through the book alcoves, study portraits of notable Americans, or admire the views of the Potomac River and the Virginia countryside beyond. The room was designed by Charles Bulfinch, finished in 1824, and destroyed by fire in 1851.

I.N. Phelps Stokes Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor Lenox and Tilden Foundations

1913-1945 - The Capitol

Wed, 2013-04-17 20:47 -- administrator

Stability in an Era of Change

The first half of the 20th century was a time of upheavals and change, with two world wars, the Great Depression, and unprecedented technological transformations. Amid the turmoil and uncertainty that marked the era, the Capitol’s unfailing dignity was a reassuring presence, giving Americans a sense of steady resolve in troubled times.

1877-1913 - The Capitol

Wed, 2013-04-17 20:38 -- administrator

The Capitol Campus

Presiding magnificently over an expanding and robust nation, the Capitol itself changed little during this period. The grounds, however, were a different story. They blossomed in the 1870s and 1880s from a disheveled construction site into a picturesque garden.

1851-1877 - The Capitol

Wed, 2013-04-17 20:30 -- administrator

A Symbol for the Nation

A dramatic transformation reshaped the Capitol in the middle of the 19th century as expansion and additions created the structure familiar to us today. New wings flanking the earlier structure tripled the size of the Capitol.

An Elevation for a Capitol, by James Diamond, ink, watercolor, and ink wash on paper, 1792

Wed, 2013-04-17 16:52 -- administrator

Diamond’s entry into the Capitol’s design competition has long been used to illustrate the immature state of America’s architectural profession at the end of the 18th century. The eye-catching bird atop the dome was surely meant to represent an American eagle, although some have suggested it more resembles a chicken.

Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Courtyard Plan, by Stephen Hallet, Ink, Watercolor and Graphite on Paper, ca. 1794 Courtyard Plan, by Stephen Hallet, Ink, Watercolor and Graphite on Paper, ca. 1794

Wed, 2013-04-17 16:50 -- administrator

Soon after construction of the wings began, architect Stephen Hallet attempted to revise the accepted plan of the center portion to include an open-air courtyard instead of a domed rotunda. Before President George Washington or the Commissioners of the Federal City could review the revised plan, Hallet began laying its foundations, which caused his prompt dismissal for insubordination.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

A View of the Capitol, by William Russell Birch, watercolor on paper, ca. 1800

Wed, 2013-04-17 16:48 -- administrator

This view of the Capitol was drawn around the time the federal government moved from Philadelphia to the new City of Washington. After seven years of construction, only the north wing had been completed; it initially accommodated the Senate as well as the House of Representatives and the Library of Congress. In 1801 the Supreme Court also moved into the building. Despite a lull in construction, the artist showed masons cutting and carving stones in the foreground.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

1789-1815 - The Capitol

Wed, 2013-04-17 16:10 -- administrator

A New City for a New Nation

Among the government’s first tasks was choosing a home. Congress had met in seven different cities since 1774. In 1790, it passed the Residence Act, authorizing a new, 10-mile-square, federally controlled seat of government on the Potomac River.


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