The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building or Capitol Hill, is the home of the United States Congress, and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government.
The United States Capitol is among the most symbolically important and architecturally impressive buildings in the nation.
The Capitol, which was started in 1793, has been through many construction phases.
The original design for the Capitol Building was drawn by Dr. William Thornton and the current dome on the Capitol was designed by Thomas U. Walter, but there have been 11 Architects of the Capitol who have all made contributions to the building.
President Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol in the building’s southeast corner on September 18, 1793, with Masonic ceremonies.
Construction started in 1793, but it was not completely finished until almost twenty years later.
The Senate started to meet in the capitol in 1800, when the Senate wing was finished.
The House started to meet in the capitol in 1807, even though the House wing was not finished until 1811.
On August 24, 1814, British troops set fire to the building during the War of 1812. A rainstorm prevented its complete destruction.
Reconstruction began in 1815 and included redesigned chambers for both Senate and House wings/now sides, which were completed by 1819.
Construction continued through to 1826, with the addition of the center section with front steps and columned portico, an interior Rotunda, rising above, the first low dome of the Capitol.
By 1850, the Capitol could no longer accommodate the increasing numbers of senators and representatives.
The 1850 expansion more than doubled the length of the Capitol, dwarfing the original, timber-framed, copper-sheeted and low dome of 1818
In 1855, the old dome was removed and work began on a replacement with a new dome. The dome was constructed between 1855 and 1866. The dome is not stone, but cast iron carefully painted to appear to be made of the same stone as the main capitol building.
The bronze Statue of Freedom is the crowning feature of the dome. It stands 6 meters (19 feet 6 inches) tall and weighs approximately 6,800 kilograms (15,000 pounds).
Today, the Capitol covers a ground area of 16,275 square meters or 1.6 hectares (175,170 square feet, or 4 acres), and has a floor area of 67,000 square meters or 6.7 hectares (721,200 square feet or 16.5 acres).
Its length, from north to south, is 229 meters (751 feet 4 inches); its greatest width, including approaches, is 107 meters (350 feet).
Its height above the base line on the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom is 88 meters (288 feet).
The building contains approximately 540 rooms and has 658 windows (108 in the dome alone) and approximately 850 doorways.
The United States Senate Chamber is a room in the north wing of the United States Capitol that serves as the legislative chamber of the United States Senate, since January 4, 1859.
The House of Representatives Chamber has 448 permanent seats. Unlike Senators, Representatives do not have assigned seats. It is adorned with relief portraits of famous lawmakers and lawgivers throughout history.
The United States Capitol rotunda is located below the Capitol dome. It is the tallest part of the Capitol and has been described as its “symbolic and physical heart.” The rotunda is 29 meters (96 feet) in diameter and rises 15 m (48 feet) to the top of its walls and 54.94 meters (180 feet 3 inches) to the canopy of the dome, and is visited by thousands of people each day.
National Statuary Hall, also known as the Old Hall of the House, is the large, two-story, semicircular room south of the Capitol Rotunda. The hall is devoted to sculptures of prominent Americans. There are 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state may contribute two statues; all have done so.
On the ground floor is an area known as the Crypt. It was intended to be the burial place of George Washington, with a ringed balustrade at the center of the Rotunda above looking down to his tomb. However, under the stipulations of his last will, Washington was buried at Mount Vernon. The Crypt houses exhibits on the history of the Capitol.
All rooms in the Capitol are designated as either S (for Senate) or H (for House), depending on whether they are north (Senate) or south (House) of the Rotunda. Additionally, all addresses in Washington, D.C., are designated N.E., N.W., S.E., or S.W., in relation to the Rotunda.
Underground tunnels and a private subway connect the main Capitol building with each of the Congressional office buildings in the surrounding complex.
A steep, metal staircase, totaling 365 steps, leads from the basement to an outdoor walkway on top of the Capitol’s dome. The number of steps represents each day of the year.
Painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, the Apotheosis of Washington in the eye of the U.S. Capitol Building’s Rotunda depicts George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame and surrounded by six groups of figures.
There are marble bathtubs in the basement of the Capitol where members of Congress would take baths back in the 19th century.
The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 111 hectares (274 acres), with the grounds proper consisting mostly of lawns, walkways, streets, drives, and planting areas.
The Capitol, as well as the grounds of Capitol Hill, have played host to major events, including presidential inaugurations held every four years.
The U.S. Capitol is also a museum of American art and history and is visited by millions of people every year.
In 1922, the US Post Office featured the US Capitol on a US Postage stamp.