United States Capitol. Legislative Building in Washington D.C., United States

United States Capitol

Legislative Building in Washington D.C., United States

Washington DC Capitol - HDR Photo © Nicolas Raymond

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United States Capitol

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As the building that houses the inner workings of the U.S. Congress, comprised of Senate and House of Representatives, the Capitol sits in the heart of Washington D.C. In addition to a center for government proceedings, the Capitol also houses large collections of American art. It is a spot visited by millions, from within the United States and from all over the world, each year.

History

The official history of the U.S. Capitol as a landmark began on September 18, 1793. On this day, George Washington (Wikipedia Article) laid the cornerstone that began construction on this iconic building. Seven years later, in November, 1800, the U.S. Congress held their first meeting in the completed north wing of the Capitol. By 1811, this wing had been renovated to house the Senate, and another wing for the House of Representatives was completed.

During the War of 1812 (Wikipedia Article), in the year 1814, British troops set fire to the Capitol and the White House. Fortunately, the Capitol was not completely devastated. Even so, reconstruction was not finished until 1826. A major expansion of the U.S. Capitol commenced in 1850 and lasted until 1868. These efforts were to accommodate a growing Congress and a growing nation.

In spite of the expansion of the building, more space was needed. For this reason, the Library of Congress was moved into its own building in 1897, and the Supreme Court moved into its own building in 1935. In 2008, a massive project to accommodate the millions of visitors through the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center was completed. This was a project to add security and allow a space for visitors to learn more about the United States Capitol.

Architecture

The Neoclassical architecture of the building was inspired by Greek and Roman designs. The architecture is representative of the democratic ideals of the founders of the United States. The winning design was drawn by an amateur architect named Dr. William Thornton (Wikipedia Article). After beginning construction on his design, there were a number of different architects that worked on the building. From initial construction in 1793 until the finished reconstruction in 1826, there were six different architects that oversaw projects.

Construction and maintenance of the U.S. Capitol is still ongoing. The most recent project on the Capitol is a restoration of the cast iron dome, one of the most impressive features of the building. This project is a multi-year project that began in 2014.

Visiting

Visitors can enter the U.S. Capitol free of charge. Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The U.S. Capitol is closed to visitors on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Inauguration Day.

While visitors have full access to the visitor center, a tour must be scheduled to see much of the Capitol building. These tours are scheduled through the advanced reservation system online of the local Senator or Representative. House and Senate galleries are also open to visitors, but are not included in Capitol tours and require a separate appointment through a local Senator or Representative, or at an appointment desk on the upper level of the visitor center for international visitors.

For the security of government officials, and the safety of Capitol visitors, all visitors must go through security screening upon entering the visitor center. There is a list of items prohibited from being taken into the Capitol which can be found at the US Capitol Visitor Center Website. Upon entering the visitor center, it is noticeable that this is a major feature of the Capitol in and of itself. About three-quarters the size of the Capitol building, the visitor center holds informational exhibits, statues from various states, gift shops, and a restaurant.

In addition to the visitor center, the Capitol Rotunda is a major stop on the U.S. Capitol tour. This introduces the main feature of the building from the inside, and houses statues from the thirteen original U.S. colonies. The U.S. Capitol also serves as a National Statuary Hall (Wikipedia Article), with 100 statues (two from each state) that represent important figures from each state’s history.

How to Get There

The U.S. Capitol is located on the National Mall beyond the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Constitution Avenue is located to the north of the building, and Independence Avenue to the south. First Street is located both to the east and west of the building. The main entrance to the underground visitor center is located at the rear of the Capitol building close to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

For those who struggle with mobility issues, or require a wheelchair, the U.S. Capitol provides a shuttle service to the main entrance that leaves from the corner of Independence Avenue and First Street SW. The Capitol is very visible from many parts of the city, but there are a few different ways one may go about actually getting there.

By Subway

Washington D.C. and its suburbs have a very reliable metro system. The U.S. Capitol is located walking distance from Union Station, Capitol South, and Federal Central SW stops.

By Tour Bus

Tour and commercial buses have very limited access to Capitol grounds. While visitors can be dropped off within walking distance, there will only be certain streets that are accessible by these vehicles.

By Car

Cars have extremely limited access to the grounds around the Capitol. In addition, there is limited parking. However, there is metered parking along the National Mall to the west of the Capitol, and parking at Union Station to the north.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Some interesting nearby landmarks include the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Library of Congress, and the United States Botanic Garden (Wikipedia Article). In addition, the National Mall is within walking distance and has a number of prominent national museums. Anoth1er significant legislative building in the world is the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, and the Palace of Westminster in London.

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Author: brendalyn.r. Last updated: Mar 15, 2015

Pictures of United States Capitol

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Washington DC - Capitol Hill: United States Capitol - Photo by Wally Gobetz

The U.S. Capitol Building - Washington DC - United States Capitol
The U.S. Capitol Building - Washington DC - United States Capitol. Photo by www.GlynLowe.com

Capitol Hill - United States Capitol
Capitol Hill - United States Capitol. Photo by Bill Dickinson

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