Capitol Hill Historic District, Washington D.C.
Completed in the year 1800, the US Capitol in Washington is the seat of the American congress and an international symbol of democracy. Shortly after its completion, it was burned down by the British army during the War of 1812, but reconstruction began in 1815. The Capitol's distinctive dome was added in 1850, and our first stop on the tour was in the rotunda, which is the area located beneath the dome. This is the place where American presidents and other officials are laid in state. So far, 11 presidents have had this honour, the latest being Gerald Ford in 2008. When we were there, the dome was undergoing major restoration work, but luckily we could still see "The Apotheosis of Washington", a fresco painted by Constantino Brumidi. I loved it because at first glance, it looks like the type of painting you would find on the ceiling of a church. However, when you pay a closer look, you realize that the man sitting on the clouds surrounded by mythological figures is none other than President George Washington. Brumidi also painted the murals in the room, which all feature important moments in American history (my favourite one depicts the wedding of Pocahontas!).
Next, we were taken to the Statuary Hall, the former House of Congress. It was in use as such for about 50 years, though members often complained about echoes that were created by the house's round ceiling. They tried hanging draperies for a while but nothing coud muffle the annoying sounds carried through the room so a decision was finally made to build a new House of Congress. The vacated space was briefly used as a farmers' market (seems like a strange idea to me!) until it found a new vocation starting in 1864, when Congress invited each of the states to present two statues of prominent citizens. The first statue was delivered in 1870 (that of Nathanael Greene from Rhode Island), and the collection soon grew to such a number that the floor of the hall was about to cave in! The statues are now dispersed throughout the building, but 35 of them are still on display in the Statuary Hall, while many others can be seen in the Visitors' Center and in the crypt.
The Capitol's crypt was the last stop on our tour. It is located below the rotunda and is called as such because it was meant to be the final resting place of George Washington. However, the latter had written in his will that he wanted to be buried at Mount Vernon, and so the place was never used as a crypt although it has retained the name over the years.
Tours of the Capitol are free, though you do need a timed tour pass. We didn't have to wait all that long before getting on a tour, which starts with a short video presentation. We got lucky and had an amazing guide who kept the tour really interesting and funny. The place can get really crowded so visitors are given headphones to make it easier to hear their guide. It's also possible to visit the Senate and House galleries. American citizens do o by contacting their representative, while international visitors should inquire at the visitor's center.
Another well know, iconic building of our government...here are my interesting facts about Capitol HIll
1. The Capitol has its own subway. And I bet it doesn't smell like subways usually smell.
2. The statue that sits atop the dome is called the Statue of Freedom. This 130 year old statue is 19 1/2 feet tall and weighs 15,000 pounds.
3. Often mistaken to be the White House by first-time visitors to Washington.
4.The Capitol building contains an empty tomb which was intended to receive the remains of George Washington. But George Washington wanted to be buried on his estate in Mount Vernon.
5. The U.S. Capitol Dome is made of 8,909,200 pounds of cast iron.
6. The statue of King Kamehameha I was once the largest statue in the Statuary Hall Collection. It has since been moved to the Capitol Visitor Center. It is prominently displayed and is part of the lore, but the Hawaiian delegation had to approve its location because it's bad luck to step over him...so he couldn't be placed underground where people would walk above.
7. Above the fireplace in the Old Supreme Court Chamber is a clock that is set five minutes early at the request Roger B. Taney, the fifth chief justice of the United States, to promote promptness.
8. The half-dome shape of National Statuary Hall produces an acoustical effect whereby, in some spots, a speaker many yards away may be heard very clearly.
The official website is the best source for information regarding a visit to the Capitol Building.
We booked our tour of Capitol Hill through http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/ a week beforehand. You select a particular time that you want to take the tour. We spent the morning at one of the museums and then walked up to Capitol Hill for an afternoon time slot. The distance is deceptive and you need to allow about 20 mins depending on the museum you are visiting.
You need to go to the back of the Capitol Hill building and then down some steps and through security. Once inside the building you need to show your voucher and then you line up for your specific group tour. There is a bit of a wait for your group leader and others who have booked to arrive. The tour starts with a brief video orientation and then you go through various rooms in the building. After the tour you can visit at your leisure the additional exhibition that charts the path to democracy and other information related to the American system of government.
What is the BONUS ??? If you are an Australian(show copies of your passport) you can get a pass into the House of Representatives or Senate without needing to organise prior permission that Americans need. If you do you go through another checkpoint and you will need to hand in cameras etc. at security.
There is a cloakroom.
If you go to Washington, of course that you wont miss to walk on the famous "Mall" and visit numerous famous buildings along it, but at this moment I would like to point out the Congress Library and the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court is at the same time an active court, of course, but also a very nice and interestin museum. The Congress Library is considered to be the biggest library in the world, It is actually the national library of the United States and the oldest federal cultural institution in tghe United States. It is wonderful, breathtaking and don't hesitate to visit it!
Purpose of the many parks, medians, circles and squares that come with Capitol Hill is to provide urban greenspace within the City of Washington D.C. for relaxation, aesthetic enjoyment, and historic commemoration.
When visiting the Capitol, wander down towards the Mall. James Garfield, the Nation’s Twentieth President is honored with a statue. He was the second of four Presidents to be assassinated in office (the others being Lincoln, McKinley and Kennedy). Most Americans don’t know much about Garfield today. He didn’t get the chance to serve but for a six months in 1881 following a narrow popular election over Democratic candidate, General Winfield Scott, a Civil War general who had played a role at Gettysburg (While Garfield won the popular vote by only 10000 votes out of 9 million, he cruised in the electoral vote, 214 to 155.). Garfield was shot by a lawyer, Charles Guiteau, who had not been appointed to a desired consular post - Paris. Guiteau figured that Garfield’s Vice President, Chester Arthur, would be so happy in becoming President, that he would appoint Guiteau afterall as a favor (Instead Guiteau was hung the following year.). Garfield died two and a half months later, just as he seemed to be recuperating.
Garfield is one of several Presidents who have come from the State of Ohio - one of Ohio’s nicknames is the State of Presidents. His home outside of Cleveland is a National Historic Site (http://www.nps.gov/jaga/) and the home - Lawndale - is also the site of the first Presidential Library. He and his wife are buried in nearby Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. They lie in a large monumental tomb not too far from the last resting places of Carl Stokes, Eliot Ness and John D Rockefeller. It is said that the ghosts of Garfield and Rockefeller enjoin in an occasional game of chess, using the elaborate tombstones as playing pieces. But Garfield’s ghost has also been seen with that of his assassin, Guiteau, wandering about in the basement of the US House of Representatives.
The statue was erected by both the US Government and the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, the Civil War unit that Garfield campaigned with, rising to the rank of Major General.
It took me a while to go to the Capitol because I thought the only thing to do there was to see the Senate or House of Representatives' debates, when possible, but I was wrong. Beyond being the politic center of the US together with the White House, the Capitol is a historic, architectonic and even urban jewel. The tour (which can be booked either online or when you show up there and is free) showed us, among others, the plaque marking the place where Lincoln's desk was when he was the representative of Illinois, the numerous paintings and frescoes decorating the halls, or the center point of DC, from where the four quadrants (NW, SW, SE and NE) begin.
For those interested in the political debates, you must obtain a Gallery pass from the offices of your Senators or Representatives (if you are a US citizen) or at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center (if you are a foreigner).
Witness democracy process first-hand with a impromptu visit to the US Capitol Hill.
Usually passes must be obtained to visit the public galleries each day, don't bother if the queues are to long in summer.
TIP: But if the Senate is in session late at night (indicated when the flag is lowered) go to the entrance located in the Capitol Visitor Center and especially international visitors (flash your passport) are able to attend the session of the Senate. No cameras, listening devices etc.
The Senate Chamber and the Brumidi Corridors are impressive.
Senator Schumer arranged for us to tour the Capital. We met at his office and took the train inside the Capital. We walked through the Brumidi Corridors to the rotunda, old Supreme Court Chamber, old Senate Chamber, and into the Statutary Hall. Our guide was informative. We all enjoyed lunch in the Capital Cafeteria.
The Capitol covers a ground area of 175,170 square feet, or about 4 acres, and has a floor area of approximately 16-1/2 acres. Its length, from north to south, is 751 feet 4 inches; its greatest width, including approaches, is 350 feet. Its height above the base line on the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom is 288 feet; from the basement floor to the top of the dome is an ascent of 365 steps. The building contains approximately 540 rooms and has 658 windows (108 in the dome alone) and approximately 850 doorways.
the library of congress was established in 1800 as a government reference library. the library was burned by the british during the war of 1812. thomas jefferson offered his own collection to replace the destroyed books. in 1897 the library moved to a new italian renaissance style building designed by john l. smithmeyer and paul j. peltz. this beautiful building was named the thomas jefferson building after it's benefactor. the library has the largest collection of books in the world. the library is open to the public and you can view a 15th century gutenberg bible and the american treasures exhibit.
This building houses the seat of government for the United States Congress and approximately a mile away from the White House. It was built in a Neoclassical architecture style with a central dome and two wings, one for the senate and the other the House of Representatives. A statue on the top of the dome is the Statue of Freedom.
You can visit the House of Representatives and the galleries from Monday to Saturday through much of the year, including Federal holidays. Security is an issue so you need to get a pass before you can enter from a kiosk at the building or a reserved tour and if you're an international visitor, show a photo ID to the Capitol Guides.
the supreme court was established at the philadelphia convention in 1787. the main purpose of the supreme court is to settle constitutional issues. this beautiful corinthain edifice was designed by cass gilbert and was built in 1935. the public is allowed to view supreme court sessons on a first come, first served basis. when the court is not in session there are public lectures about the supreme court in the courtroom. check their website for times and admission information.
The hill, which in 1790 was called Jenkins Hill or Jenkins Heights, was the site chosen by Pierre L'Enfant for the placement of the "Congress House," a site which L'Enfant characterized as a "pedestal waiting for a superstructure." In accordance with this plan, the Capitol was situated upon the crest of the hill facing the city. Capitol Hill, aside from being the common nickname for the United States Congress, is the largest historic residential neighborhood in Washington, D.C., stretching easterly behind the U.S. Capitol along wide avenues. It is one of the oldest residential communities in Washington, and with roughly 35,000 people in just under two square miles, it is one of the densest neighborhoods in Washington.
Almost every street is composed of rowhouses of different stylistic varieties and periods forming a continuous wall broken only by street intersections. Side by side exist early 19th century manor houses, Federal townhouses, small frame dwellings, ornate Italianate bracketed houses and the late 19th century press brick rowhouses with their often whimsical decorative elements combining Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Eastlakian motifs. One of the more interesting houses is the Sewell-Belmont House, perhaps one of the oldest houses in the city and rebuilt after the War of 1812. Interspersed with the rowhouses are churches, which serve the community such as Christ Church and St. Mark.
Having lived in Washington for about 30 years, I am long past being impressed by the doings on Capitol Hill and those elected to run the show. But it is still a fabulously interesting place to be because of the history. The neighborhood is also very charming and has a cozy southern feeling to it.
There are also a lot of wonderful places to eat on the Hill.
Until the early 1900s, Senators and Representatives had their Washington, DC offices inside the Capitol building. It was very convenient to get to the House and Senate floor for votes, but it got crowded in the Capitol building. Congress authorised the construction of buildings nearby, but outside of the Capitol to relieve overcrowding. Now there are a total of 6 congressional office buildings- 3 for the Senate and 3 for the House of Representatives. In the House, they are named for former Speakers Cannon (for Illinois), Longworth (for Ohio), and Rayburn (for Texas). In the Senate, they are named for prominent former Senators Russell (for Georgia), Dirksen (for Illinois), and Hart (for Michigan). Of course, office space, like everything else on Capitol Hill, is determined by party and seniority. The senior members choose the newest, most modern buildings (Rayburn for the House, Hart for the Senate). The odd thing is, when a senior member dies in or otherwise leaves office midterm, the newbie who replaces him gets his posh office digs until the next election when he has to move down to office space more in line with his limited seniority.