Situated directly east of the National Mall atop Capitol Hill lies the the home of United States Senate and House of Representatives, known together as Congress - the U.S. Capitol Building. Its distinctive neoclassical architecture style, reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman buildings, was a conscious decision by our Nation's founders, who wanted to emulate the principles of these great empires of the past. Although, the building we see standing today is by no means how it originally looked when construction began in 1793.
After ratification of the United States Constitution, the founders began plans for a new, permanent capital for the new nation. French engineer Charles L'Enfant was tasked with designing the city plans and it was he who picked Jenkin's Hill (as it was known then) as the location for the "Congress House" before Thomas Jefferson suggested the building be named the Capitol, from the latin word associated with a temple located in one of the seven hills of Rome.
Shortly after its completion, the Captiol was partially destroyed during the War of 1812. The wings were redesigned and rebuilt, and was expanded again in 1850, adding in several new wings, which also made the low, copper dome top the Capitol look out of place. The builders decided to tear it down and replace with with a new, grander dome that we see today.
The Capitol building is visited by 3-5 milion people each year. The rotunda, directly below the Capitol dome, is home to many important works of American art including paintings depicting the American Revolution and statues dedicated to American figures and heros, like Rosa Parks. One of the Capitol's most stunning features is Frieze of American History, including the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Discovery of Gold in California, and Peace at the End of the Civil War.
Hear more about the tumultuous history of the building we see today and what role this building plays in modern U.S. government on one of our tours!