The US Capitol houses the legislative branch of the American
government. The Senate occupies the building's north
wing and the House of representatives is housed in the
Construction of the Capitol started in 1793, two years after an area ceded
by Maryland was selected as the District of Columbia,
site of the new capital. The original design was created
by Dr. William Thornton, a Scottish physician. His design
called for a domed building flanked by a southern and
northern wing. The construction of the sandstone building
was supervised by James Hoban, the architect of the
be followed by many more architects over the next 200
Construction progressed slowly and in 1800 Congress met in the new - unfinished - Capitol for the first time. Until then they had met in eight different cities, the last one being Philadelphia.
In 1814, when construction was still going on, the Capitol
was set on fire by British troops. A rainstorm prevented
the complete destruction of the building and construction
resumed the next year. The building was finally completed
in 1826 by Charles Bulfinch, a Boston
for his design of the Massachusetts
The addition of new
states soon made the Capitol too small for the increasing
number of senators and representatives. In 1851 the
Capitol was extended after a design by the Philadelphia
architect Thomas U.
Walter. He added new wings and used marble instead of the already
deteriorating sandstone for the extensions. The existing
dome had become too small in comparison to the wings
and in 1856 the dome was removed. A new, large cast-iron
dome was constructed. In 1863 the bronze 'statue of
freedom' was installed on top of the majestic dome.
The Capitol continued
to be modified and extended. In 1881 construction of
the terraces started. Designed by the landscape architect
Frederick Law Olmsted - also known for his design of
Central Park in
New York City
- the terraces
added more than one hundred rooms to the already large building.
The next major expansion of the building was the east
front extension constructed between 1958 and 1962 under
the supervision of architect J. George Stewart. During
half of the twentieth century several renovation projects
were undertaken, the last one was completed in 1993.
Despite the large
of architects and modifications, the US Capitol's architecture
is surprisingly homogenous.
The neo-classical building's
size is impressive: it is 751ft/229m long and 350ft/107m
wide. The dome including the 19ft tall statue reaches
a height of 188ft or 57m. The building contains some
540 rooms spread out over five floors. Some of the most
notable of these rooms are the rotunda, a large domed
room in the center of the capitol and the National Statuary
Hall, where statues of prominent citizens are displayed.
Self-guided tours to
the US Capitol are not allowed anymore, but you can
still take a free guided tour.
The Capitol is located on top of a hill,
now known as the capitol hill, on the east side of the