11.03.2017

United States Capitol


After wandering the neighborhood of Capitol Hill, Lea and I walked to the Capitol Building to begin our tour at three o'clock. When we arrived, we entered a room to watch a short documentary about the history of the United States Capitol. Afterward, we were paired with our guide and began our tour of the neoclassical building. We went to the Crypt, the Old Supreme Court Chambers, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall Collection. After our tour of the Capitol Building, we decided to use the tunnel to get to the Library of Congress. We did a quick self-tour of the national library, but we promised ourselves we would go back on another day to receive a proper tour.


The original Capitol building stood completed in 1800. During the War of 1812, the Capitol was partly damaged after it was set ablaze by British soldiers on August 24, 1814. Reconstruction commenced in 1815 with a redesign of both the Senate and House chambers, and later with the addition of the center front steps, the portico, and the interior of the Rotunda in the 1820s. During the 1950s the Capitol expanded more than twice its original size and a new design for a much larger dome was authorized by Congress. It's been suggested that the Statue of Freedom at the top of the dome faces the east so "the sun can never set on the face of Freedom".

The Crypt was the first place we proceeded to, it's directly below the Rotunda. It was originally intended to be an entrance to the tomb of George Washington. The designers of the Capitol obtained permission from Martha Washington sometime after her husband's death to have the tomb built. However, the crypt was not completed until 1827, twenty-eight years after the death of the First President. George Washington wrote his will and testament in July of 1799, "The family Vault at Mount Vernon requiring repairs, and being improperly situated besides, I desire that a new one of Brick, and upon a larger Scale, may be built at the foot of what is commonly called the Vineyard Inclosure, on the ground which is marked out. In which my remains, with those of my deceased relatives and such others of my family as may chuse to be entombed there, may be deposited. And it is my express desire that my Corpse may be Interred in a private manner, without parade, or funeral Oration (Washington)." Because of the restrictions in his will and opposition from the proprietor of Mount Vernon at the time, the plans to retrieve George Washington's body from Mount Vernon were abandoned.

Of everything we saw inside of the Capitol, the Rotunda was my favorite. The ceiling is remarkably high, naturally, the first thing I did was look up. My eyes were met with The Apotheosis of Washington. It was painted by Constantino Brumidi at the end of the Civil War. The Apotheosis of Washington portrays our First President sitting in the heavens as a god, to his right is the Goddess of Liberty and to his left is goddess Victoria. Thirteen maidens with stars above their head, representing the original Thirteen Colonies, complete the circle. Six scenes depicting war, science, marine, commerce, mechanics, and agriculture surround them. Eight large historical paintings, four scenes of the American Revolution and four scenes of the exploration and colonization of America, are also found in the Rotunda.


CHARLENE ZALE

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