CAPITOL HILL FACTS
Which is taller, the Capitol or the Washington Monument?The Washington Monument, standing 555 feet tall, is 267 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol. Because the base of the Washington Monument is 30 feet above sea level, and that of the Capitol is 88 feet above sea level, the top of the Washington Monument is 209 feet higher than the top of the Capitol Building.
Is anyone buried in the Capitol?No. A tomb area was built for the remains of George Washington beneath the Crypt, but his will specified that he wished to be buried at his home at Mount Vernon, and his descendants honored this wish.
Was the Capitol used as a prison during the Civil War?No. However, a building known as the “old brick Capitol” was. The old brick Capitol was built for the use of the Congress after the U.S. Capitol was burned by invading British troops during the War of 1812; it stood on part of the site now occupied by the Supreme Court Building. Congress occupied the old brick Capitol between 1815 and 1819, while the Capitol was being rebuilt. The old brick Capitol was then used for various purposes; during the Civil War it served as a prison for the confinement of Confederate captives and of suspected collaborators. Following the Civil War the building was converted to residences. It was removed before the October 1932 laying of the cornerstone of the Supreme Court building.
Is there any symbolic significance to the numbers of columns and steps in various locations in the Capitol?No. The numbers of columns and steps were determined for aesthetic and practical, rather than symbolic, reasons.
Is there a “whispering gallery” in the U.S. Capitol?The half-dome shape of National Statuary Hall produces an acoustical effect whereby, in some spots, a speaker many yards away may be heard more clearly than one closer at hand. The modern-day echoes occur in different locations from those in the 19th century, when the floor and ceiling of the hall were different.
What is the largest statue in the Statuary Hall Collection?The statue of King Kamehameha I, donated by the state of Hawaii. The bronze statue is 9′-10″ tall and stands on a 3′-6″ granite base; their combined weight is approximately 15,000 pounds.
How many women are represented in the National Statuary Hall Collection?Nine: Mother Joseph (Washington), Esther Hobart Morris (Wyoming), Jeannette Rankin (Montana), Dr. Florence Sabin (Colorado), Sakakawea (North Dakota), Maria Sanford (Minnesota), Frances E. Willard (Illinois), Sarah Winnemucca (Nevada), and Helen Keller (Alabama).
How many statues are there in the National Statuary Hall Collection?There are 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state may contribute two statues; all have done so.
Where and what is the Capitol Rotunda?The Rotunda is a circular room in the center of the building beneath the Capitol dome. It is 96 feet in diameter and rises 180 feet from the floor to the canopy, with a volume of approximately 1.3 million cubic feet.
Why does the Statue of Freedom face east, away from the Mall?The Capitol’s East Front was planned, and still serves, as its principal entrance (being the only front on level ground), and the statue faces those who arrive from this direction.
What is the name of the statue on top of the dome?Atop the U.S. Capitol dome is the Statue of Freedom, an allegorical female figure.
How much did it cost to build the Capitol?The U.S. Capitol is a unique structure, as it has been built in successive phases over the past two centuries. The estimated historical cost of the United States Capitol as of 2003 was $133 million. This includes the original building (the Rotunda and the north and south wings) as it stood in 1824 ($2.4 million), the cast-iron dome added in 1866 ($1 million), and the extensions (which house the present House and Senate chambers as well as office and support spaces) completed in 1867 ($8.1 million). Numerous additions, renovations and modernization efforts made throughout the years added another $122 million. Improvements to the Capitol Grounds have an estimated historical cost of $33.8 million as of fiscal year 2003; these include such items as landscaping, sidewalks, and security features. This estimate does not include the addition of the newest addition to the Capitol, the Capitol Visitor Center, which was constructed after 2003.
Note that these numbers are given in historical dollars spent and have not been inflated to reflect current-day replacement value.
What are the dimensions of the Capitol Building?The U.S. Capitol’s length, from north to south, is 751 feet 4 inches; its greatest width is 350 feet. Its height above the base line on the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom is 288 feet.
What material is the U.S. Capitol made of?The original building, completed in 1826, was made of brick clad in sandstone. The north and south wings and connecting corridors added in the mid 19th century and the replica of the East Front constructed in the 20th century are made of brick clad in marble; the dome is made of 8,909,200 pounds of cast iron.
When was the U.S. Capitol built?Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793 and has been “completed” several times. The original building was finished in 1826. The growth of the Congress compelled its expansion in the middle of the 19th century; the extensions and new dome were finished in 1868. An addition to the east front in 1958-1962 added more rooms to the Capitol. The restoration of the west front and terraces and the in-filling of courtyards, was completed in 1993. The most recent, and largest ever, addition to the Capitol, the Capitol Visitor Center, was completed in 2008.
Who designed the U.S. Capitol?The original design for the Capitol Building was drawn by Dr. William Thornton and the current dome on the Capitol was designed by Thomas U. Walter, but there have been 11 Architects of the Capitol who have all made contributions to the building.
What is the function of the U.S. Capitol?The United States Capitol Building houses the meeting chambers of the Senate (in the north wing) and the House of Representatives (in the south wing) – the two bodies that compose the legislative branch of the American government. It also includes the offices of congressional leadership, and it is used for ceremonies of national importance such as presidential inaugurations and the lying in state of eminent persons. The U.S. Capitol is also a museum of American art and history and is visited by millions of people every year.
Where can I find additional information about Capitol Hill?A variety of web resources about the buildings of Capitol Hill are available to assist you. For an interactive look at Capitol Hill visit the Architect’s Virtual Capitol. To book your tour to the U.S. Capitol Building visit the Capitol VIsitor Center’s website at: www.visitthecapitol.gov. Learn more about the U.S. Botanic Garden at www.usbg.gov. Also available is information about the U.S. House of Representatives, the United States Senate, Library of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The following books available through the Government Printing Office provide in-depth information about the art and architecture of the U.S. Capitol: Constantino Brumidi: Artist of the Capitol; To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi; History of the United States Capitol: A Chronicle of Design, Construction, and Politics; and Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol.