The History of the United States Capitol

the United States Capitol building the

home of American democracy and global

symbol of freedom is one of the most

recognizable buildings in the world the

Capitol building itself reflects the

history of America growing and evolving

with the nation since its first

cornerstone was laid the person first

credited with the title of architect of

the Capitol was dr. William Thornton his

design for the Capitol was selected by

President George Washington in 1793 to

be built atop Jenkins Hill on September

18 1793 President George Washington laid

the cornerstone but due to the

challenges of acquiring the materials

and the skilled labor to build the

Capitol by August 1796 the commissioners

were forced to focus the entire work

effort on the buildings north wing so

that it could be ready for government

occupancy even with the focus on the

north wing some third floor rooms were

still unfinished when the Congress the

Supreme Court the Library of Congress

and the courts of the District of

Columbia were moved into the building in

1800 in 1803 Congress allocated funds to

resumed construction of the Capitol and

Benjamin Henry Latrobe was appointed

architect by 1807 construction on the

south wing was sufficiently advanced so

the house was able to occupy its new

legislative chamber and the wing was

completed in 1811 by 1813 Latrobe left

the Capitol due to funding shortages

caused by the war of 1812 with Great

Britain on August 24th 18

ting British troops set fire to the

building only a sudden rainstorm

prevented total destruction creating

what Latrobe called a most magnificent

ruin the trove returned to Washington in

1815 when he was rehired to restore the

Capitol but was forced to resign shortly

after due to consistently missing

deadlines and exceeding budgets

architect Charles Bulfinch Latrobe

successor completed the chambers for the

Supreme Court the House and the Senate

which was ready for use by 1819 Bulfinch

also created the long-awaited

Center building capping it with a copper

covered dome after completing the dome

in 1826 bull Fitch spent the next few

years on the Capitals decoration in

landscaping by 1850 it was apparent that

the Capitol could no longer accommodate

the increasing numbers of Senators and

Representatives from newly admitted

States another competition was held for

the best plan to extend the Capitol

president Millard Fillmore appointed

Philadelphia architect Thomas you Walter

who would design and add two significant

wings to the Capitol housing the Senate

on the north side and the House of

Representatives on the south as the new

wings were constructed more than

doubling the length of the Capitol it

became apparent that the dome erected by

Bulfinch no longer suited the building's

proportions beginning in 1855 it was

decided the old dome should be torn down

and a larger cast iron dome designed by

Walter would replace it on December 2nd

1863 the 19 foot statue of freedom was

mounted completing the 287 foot dome

between 1884 and 1891 the marble

terraces on the north west and south

sides of the Capitol were constructed as

part of the grounds plan devised by

Landscape Architect Frederick Law

Olmsted the next significant alteration

to the exterior of the Capitol was

initiated in 1958 with a 33 foot

extension of the East portico at the

center of the building that was first

proposed by Walter in 1864 the Capitol

Visitor Center is the newest addition to

the Capitol at nearly five hundred and

eighty thousand square feet the Visitor

Center is the largest project in the

capitols more than two century history

and is approximately 3/4 the size of the

Capitol itself the entire facility is

located underground on the east side of

the Capitol so as not to detract from

the appearance of the Capitol and the

grounds designed by Frederick Law

Olmsted in 1874 on December 2nd 2008 the

anniversary of the placement of the

statue of freedom atop the Capitol dome

the Capitol Visitor Center opened since

then millions of people have visited the

Capitol entering through the Capitol

Visitor Center in the decade ahead the

Capitol will undergo further restoration

and improvements ensuring this iconic

building and home of American democracy

endures for generations to come