United States Capitol: Wikis


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United States Capitol

The west face of the United States Capitol
Architectural style American Neoclassicism
Town Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Country United States of America
Client Washington administration
Started September 18, 1793
Size 274 acres (1.11 km²)
Design team
Architect William Thornton (first of many)

The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the Federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall. Though not in the geographic center of the District of Columbia, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided. Officially, both the east and west sides of the Capitol are referred to as "fronts". Historically, however, the east front was the side of the building intended for the arrival of visitors and dignitaries.



Prior to establishing the nation's capital in Washington, D.C., the United States Congress and its predecessors had met in Philadelphia, New York City, and a number of other locations.[1] In September 1774, the First Continental Congress brought together delegates from the colonies in Philadelphia, followed by the Second Continental Congress which met from 1776 to 1781. Upon gaining independence, the Congress of the Confederation was formed, and convened in Philadelphia until June 1783, when a mob of angry soldiers converged upon Independence Hall, demanding payment for their service during the American Revolutionary War. Congress requested that John Dickinson, the governor of Pennsylvania, call up the militia to defend Congress from attacks by the protesters. In what became known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Dickinson sympathized with the protesters and refused to remove them from Philadelphia. As a result, Congress was forced to flee to Princeton, New Jersey on June 21, 1783,[2] and met in Annapolis, Maryland, and Trenton, New Jersey, before ending up in New York City.

The United States Congress was established upon ratification of the United States Constitution in 1789. New York City remained home to Congress until 1790,[3] when the Residence Act was passed to pave way for a permanent capital. The decision to locate the capital was contentious, but Alexander Hamilton helped broker a compromise in which the federal government would take on war debt incurred during the American Revolutionary War, in exchange for support from northern states for locating the capital along the Potomac River. As part of the legislation, Philadelphia was chosen as a temporary capital for ten years, until the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. would be ready.[4]

Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant was given the task of creating the city plan for the new capital city.[5] L'Enfant chose Jenkins Hill as the site for the Capitol Building, with a grand boulevard connecting it with the President's House, and a public space stretching westward to the Potomac River.[6] In reviewing L'Enfant's plan, Thomas Jefferson insisted the legislative building be called the "Capitol", rather than "Congress House". The word "Capitol" comes from Latin, meaning city on a hill and is associated with the Roman temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus on Capitoline Hill.[7] In addition to coming up with a city plan, L'Enfant had been tasked with designing the Capitol and President's House, however he was dismissed in February 1792 over disagreements with President George Washington and the commissioners, and there were no plans at that point for the Capitol.[8]


Design competition

Design for the U.S. Capitol, "An Elevation for a Capitol", by James Diamond was one of many submitted in the 1792 contest, but not selected.

In spring 1792, Thomas Jefferson proposed a design competition to solicit designs for the Capitol and the President's House, and set a four-month deadline. The prize for the competition was $500 and a lot in the federal city. At least ten individuals submitted designs for the Capitol; however the drawings were regarded as crude and amateur, reflecting the level of architectural skill present in the United States at the time.[9] The most promising of the submissions was by Stephen Hallet, a trained French architect.[10] However, Hallet's designs were overly fancy, with too much French influence, and were deemed too costly.[11]

A late entry by amateur architect William Thornton was submitted on January 31, 1793, to much praise for its "Grandeur, Simplicity, and Beauty" by Washington, along with praise from Jefferson. Thornton was inspired by the east front of the Louvre, as well as the Pantheon for the center portion of the design.[12][13] Thornton's design was officially approved in a letter, dated April 5, 1793, from Washington.[14] In an effort to console Hallet, the commissioners appointed him to review Thornton's plans, develop cost estimates, and serve as superintendent of construction. Hallet proceeded to pick apart and make drastic changes to Thornton's design, which he saw as amateur with numerous problems and high costs to build.[15] In July 1793, Jefferson convened a five-member commission, bringing Hallet and Thornton together, along with James Hoban, to address problems with and revise Thornton's plan. Hallet suggested changes to the floor plan, which could be fitted within the exterior design by Thornton.[16][17] The revised plan was accepted, except that Jefferson and Washington insisted on an open recess in the center of the East front, which was part of Thornton's original plan.[18]

The original design by Thornton was later modified by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and then Charles Bulfinch. The current dome and the House and Senate wings were designed by Thomas U. Walter and August Schoenborn,[19] a German immigrant, and were completed under the supervision of Edward Clark.[20]


The Capitol when first occupied by Congress, 1800

L'Enfant secured the lease of quarries at Wigginton Island and along Aquia Creek in Virginia for use in the foundations and outer walls of the Capitol in November 1791.[21] Surveying was underway soon after the Jefferson conference plan for the Capitol was accepted.[16] A groundbreaking ceremony for the Capitol took place on September 18, 1793. Washington, dressed in masonic attire, laid the cornerstone, which was made by silversmith Caleb Bentley.[22][23]

Construction proceeded with Hallet working under supervision of James Hoban, who was also busy working on construction of the White House. Despite the wishes of Jefferson and the President, Hallet went ahead anyway and modified Thornton's design for the East front and created a square central court that projected from the center, with flanking wings which would house the legislative bodies. Hallet was dismissed by Jefferson on November 15, 1794.[24] George Hadfield was hired on October 15, 1795 as superintendent of construction, but resigned three years later in May 1798, due to dissatisfaction with Thornton's plan and quality of work done thus far.[25]

The Senate wing was completed in 1800, while the House wing was completed in 1811. However, the House of Representatives moved into the House wing in 1807. Though the building was incomplete, the Capitol held its first session of United States Congress on November 17, 1800. The legislature was moved to Washington prematurely, at the urging of President John Adams in hopes of securing enough Southern votes to be re-elected for a second term as president.[26]

War of 1812

The Capitol after the burning of Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812

Not long after the completion of both wings, the Capitol was partially burned by the British on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812. Reconstruction began in 1815 and was completed by 1819. Construction continued through to 1864, with the addition of the center Rotunda area and the first dome of the Capitol. Latrobe is principally connected with the original construction and many innovative interior features; his successor, Bulfinch, also played a major role, such as the design of the first dome.


The building was expanded dramatically in the 1850s. The original timber-framed dome of 1818 would no longer be appropriately scaled. Thomas U. Walter was responsible for the wing extensions and the "wedding cake" cast-iron dome, three times the height of the original dome and 100 feet (30 m) in diameter, which had to be supported on the existing masonry piers. Like Mansart's dome at Les Invalides (which he had visited in 1838), Walter's dome is double, with a large oculus in the inner dome, through which is seen The Apotheosis of Washington painted on a shell suspended from the supporting ribs, which also support the visible exterior structure and the tholos that supports Freedom, a colossal statue that was added to the top of the dome in 1863. The weight of the cast iron for the dome has been published as 8,909,200 pounds (4,041,100 kg).

Daguerreotype of east side of the Capitol, 1846

When the Capitol was expanded in the 1850s, some of the construction labor was carried out by slaves "who cut the logs, laid the stones and baked the bricks".[27] The original plan was to use workers brought in from Europe; however, there was a poor response to recruitment efforts, and African Americans—free and slave—composed the majority of the work force.[28]

When the dome of the Capitol was finally completed, it was significantly larger than the original plan, and its massive visual weight overpowered the proportions of the columns of the East Portico, built in 1828. The East Front of the Capitol building was rebuilt in 1904, following a design of the architects Carrère and Hastings, who also designed the Senate and House office buildings. A marble duplicate of the sandstone East Front was built 33.5 feet (10.2 m) from the old Front during 1958–1962, and a connecting extension incorporated what formerly was an outside wall as an inside wall. In the process, the Corinthian columns were removed, and landscape designer Russell Page created a suitable setting for them in a large meadow at the National Arboretum, where they are combined with a reflecting pool in an ensemble that reminds some visitors of Persepolis. Besides the columns, hundreds of blocks of the original stone were removed and are stored behind a National Park Service maintenance yard in Rock Creek Park.

National Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum

On December 19, 1960, the Capitol was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.[29] The building was ranked #6 in a survey conducted for the American Institute of Architects' list of "America's Favorite Architecture".[30] The Capitol draws heavily from other notable buildings, especially churches and landmarks in Europe, including the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and St. Paul's Cathedral in London.[31] On the roofs of the Senate and House Chambers are flagpoles that fly the U.S. flag when either is in session.

On June 20, 2000, ground was broken for the Capitol Visitor Center, which subsequently opened on December 2, 2008.[32] From 2001 through 2008, the East Front of the Capitol (site of most presidential inaugurations until Ronald Reagan began a new tradition in 1981) was the site of construction for this massive underground complex, designed to facilitate a more orderly entrance for visitors to the Capitol. Prior to the center being built, visitors to the Capitol had to queue on the parking lot and ascend the stairs, whereupon entry was made through the massive sculpted Columbus Doors, through a small narthex cramped with security, and thence directly into the Rotunda. The new underground facility provides a grand entrance hall, a visitors theater, room for exhibits, and dining and restroom facilities, in addition to space for building necessities such as an underground service tunnel.


The Capitol building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings, one for each chamber of Congress: the north wing is the Senate chamber and the south wing is the House of Representatives chamber. Above these chambers are galleries where visitors can watch the Senate and House of Representatives. It is an example of the neoclassical architecture style. The statue on top of the dome is the Statue of Freedom.[33]

Underground tunnels and a private underground railway connect the main Capitol building with each of the Congressional office buildings in the surrounding complex. All rooms in the Capitol are designated as either S (for Senate) or H (for House), depending on whether they are north (Senate) or south (House) of the Rotunda. Additionally, all addresses in Washington, D.C. are designated NE, NW, SE, or SW, in relation to the Rotunda. Since the Capitol Rotunda is not located in the center of the District—it is slightly farther east and south—the four D.C. quadrants are not the same shape and size.


The fresco painted on the interior of the Capitol's dome titled The Apotheosis of Washington was painted by Constantino Brumidi.

The Capitol has a long history in art of the United States, beginning in 1856 with Italian/Greek American artist Constantino Brumidi and his murals in the hallways of the first floor of the Senate side of the Capitol. The murals, known as the Brumidi Corridors,[34] reflect great moments and people in United States history. Among the original works are those depicting Benjamin Franklin, John Fitch, Robert Fulton, and events such as the Cession of Louisiana. Also decorating the walls are animals, insects and natural flora indigenous to the United States. Brumidi's design left many spaces open so that future events in United States history could be added. Among those added are the Spirit of St. Louis, the Moon landing, and the Challenger shuttle crew.

Brumidi also worked within the Rotunda. He is responsible for the painting of The Apotheosis of Washington beneath the top of the dome, and also the famous Frieze of United States History.[35] The Apotheosis of Washington was completed in 11 months and painted by Brumidi while suspended nearly 180 feet (55 m) in the air. It is said to be the first attempt by the United States to deify a founding father. Washington is depicted surrounded by 13 maidens in an inner ring with many Greek and Roman gods and goddesses below him in a second ring. The frieze is located around the inside of the base of the dome and is a chronological, pictorial history of the United States from the landing of Christopher Columbus to the Wright Brothers's flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The frieze was started in 1878 and was not completed until 1953. The frieze was therefore painted by four different artists: Brumidi, Filippo Costaggini, Charles Ayer Whipple, and Allyn Cox. The final scenes depicted in the fresco had not yet occurred when Brumidi began his Frieze of the United States History.

Within the Rotunda there are eight large paintings about the development of the United States as a nation. On the east side are four paintings depicting major events in the discovery of America. On the west are four paintings depicting the founding of the United States. The east side paintings include The Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman, The Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Walter Weir, The Discovery of the Mississippi by William Henry Powell, and The Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn. The paintings on the west side are by John Trumbull: Declaration of Independence, Surrender of General Burgoyne, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, and General George Washington Resigning His Commission. Trumbull was a contemporary of the United States' founding fathers and a participant in the American Revolutionary War; he painted a self-portrait into Surrender of Lord Cornwallis.

The Capitol also houses the National Statuary Hall Collection, comprising two statues donated by each of the fifty states to honor persons notable in their histories. One of the most notable statues in the National Statuary Hall is a bronze statue of King Kamehameha donated by the state of Hawaii upon its accession to the union in 1959. The statue's extraordinary weight of 15,000 pounds (6,804 kg) raised concerns that it might come crashing through the floor, so it was moved to Emancipation Hall of the new Capitol Visitor Center. The 100th, and last statue for the collection, that of Po'pay from the state of New Mexico, was added on September 22, 2005. It was the first statue moved into the Emancipation Hall.


Under the Rotunda there is an area known as the Crypt. It was designed to look down on the final resting place of George Washington in the tomb below. However, under the stipulations of his last will, Washington was buried at Mount Vernon, and as such the area remains open to visitors. The Crypt now houses exhibits on the history of the Capitol. A star inlaid in the floor marks the point at which Washington, D.C. is divided into its four quadrants; however, the exact center of the city lies near the White House. At one end of the room near the Old Supreme Court Chamber is a statue of John C. Calhoun. On the right leg of the statue, a mark from a bullet fired during the 1998 shooting incident is clearly visible. The bullet also left a mark on the cape, located on the back right side of the statue.

Eleven presidents have lain in state in the Rotunda for public viewing, most recently Gerald Ford. The tomb meant for Washington stored the catafalque which is used to support coffins lying in state or honor in the Capitol. The catafalque is now on display in the Capitol Visitors Center for the general public to see when not in use.

In the basement of the Capitol building in a utility room are two marble bathtubs, which are all that remain of the once elaborate Senate baths. These baths were a spa-like facility designed for members of Congress and their guests before many buildings in the city had modern plumbing. The facilities included several bathtubs, a barbershop, and a massage parlor.

A steep, metal staircase, totaling 365 steps, leads from the basement to an outdoor walkway on top of the Capitol's dome.[36] The number of steps represents each day of the year.[37]


Contrary to popular belief, DC building height laws have never referenced the height of the Capitol building, which rises to 289 feet (88 m).[38] Further adding evidence to this is the fact that the Capitol building is only the fifth tallest structure in Washington, D.C..

House Chamber

The House of Representatives Chamber has 448 permanent seats. Unlike Senators, Representatives do not have assigned seats.[39] It is adorned with relief portraits of famous lawmakers and lawgivers throughout history.

In order clockwise around the chamber:

The President delivers the annual State of the Union address in the House chamber

There is also a quote etched in the marble of the chamber, as stated by venerable statesman Daniel Webster: "Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered."[40]

Senate Chamber

The current Senate Chamber opened in 1859[41] and is adorned with white marble busts of the former Presidents of the Senate (Vice Presidents).[42]

Old Supreme Court Chamber

From 1800 to 1806, this room served as the Senate Chamber and from 1806 until 1860, the room was used as the Supreme Court Chamber. In 1860, the Supreme Court began using the newly vacated Old Senate Chamber. Since 1935, the Supreme Court has met in the United States Supreme Court Building.



Aerial view of the Capitol Grounds

The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 274 acres (1.11 km²), with the grounds proper consisting mostly of lawns, walkways, streets, drives, and planting areas. Formerly, a number of monumental sculptures were located on the east facade and lawn of the Capitol including The Rescue and George Washington. The current grounds were designed by noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who planned the expansion and landscaping performed from 1874 to 1892. In 1875, as one of his first recommendations, Olmsted proposed the construction of the marble terraces on the north, west, and south sides of the building that exist today.

Olmsted also designed the Summer House, the open-air brick building that sits just north of the Capitol. Three arches open into the hexagonal structure, which encloses a fountain and twenty-two brick chairs. A fourth wall holds a small window that looks onto an artificial grotto. Built between 1879 and 1881, the Summer House was intended to answer complaints that visitors to the Capitol had no place to sit and no place to obtain water for their horses and themselves. Modern drinking fountains have since replaced Olmsted's fountain for the latter purpose. Olmsted intended to build a second, matching Summer House on the southern side of the Capitol, but congressional objections led to the project's cancellation.


Up to four U.S. flags can be seen flying over the Capitol. Two flagpoles are located at the base of the dome on the East and West sides. These flagpoles have flown the flag day and night since World War I. The other two flagpoles are above the North (Senate) and South (House of Representatives) wings of the building, and fly only when the chamber below is in session. The flag above the House of Representatives is raised and lowered by House pages. Several auxiliary flagpoles, to the west of the dome and not visible from the ground, are used to meet congressional requests for flags flown over the Capitol. Constituents pay for U.S. flags flown over the Capitol to commemorate a variety of events such as the death of a veteran family member.

Major events

The Capitol, as well as the grounds of Capitol Hill, have played host to major events, including presidential inaugurations held every four years. During an inauguration, the front of the Capitol is outfitted with a platform and a grand staircase. Annual events at the Capitol include Independence Day celebrations, and the National Memorial Day Concert.

The general public has paid respect to a number of individuals lying in state at the Capitol, including numerous former presidents, senators, and other officials. Other Americans lying in honor include Officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, the two officers killed in the 1998 shooting incident. Chestnut was the first African American ever to lie in honor in the Capitol. The public also paid respect to civil rights icon Rosa Parks at the Capitol in 2005. She was the first woman and second African American to lie in honor in the Capitol.


On January 30, 1835, what is believed to be the first attempt to kill a sitting President of the United States occurred just outside the United States Capitol. When Jackson was leaving the Capitol out of the East Portico after the funeral of South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed and deranged housepainter from England, either burst from a crowd or stepped out from hiding behind a column and aimed a pistol at Jackson which misfired. Lawrence then pulled out a second pistol which also misfired. It has since been postulated that the moisture from the humid weather of the day contributed to the double misfiring.[43] Lawrence was then restrained, with legend saying that Jackson attacked Lawrence with his cane, prompting his aides to restrain him. Others present, including David Crockett, restrained and disarmed Lawrence.

On July 2, 1915, prior to the United States' entry into World War I, Eric Muenter (aka Frank Holt), a German professor who wanted to stop American support of the Allies in World War I, exploded a bomb in the reception room of the U.S. Senate. The next morning he tried to assassinate J. P. Morgan, Jr., son of the financier, at his home on Long Island, New York. In a letter to the Washington Evening Star published after the explosion, Muenter writing under an assumed name, said he hoped that the detonation would “make enough noise to be heard above the voices that clamor for war.” J.P. Morgan’s company served as Great Britain’s principal U.S. purchasing agent for munitions and other war supplies.

The Capitol at night

In 1954, Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on members of Congress from the visitors' gallery. On March 1, 1971, a bomb exploded on the ground floor of the Capitol, placed by the radical left domestic terrorist group, the Weather Underground. They placed the bomb as a demonstration against U.S. involvement in Laos. On November 7, 1983, a group called the Armed Resistance Unit claimed responsibility for a bomb that detonated in the lobby outside the office of Senate Minority Leader Robert Byrd.[44] Six people associated with the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee were later found in contempt of court for refusing to testify about the bombing.[45] In 1990, three members of the Armed Resistance Unit were convicted of the bombing, which they claimed was in response to the invasion of Grenada.[46] On July 24, 1998, Russell Eugene Weston Jr. burst into the Capitol and opened fire, killing two Capitol Police officers. The Capitol is believed to have been the intended target of the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, before it crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania after passengers tried to take over control of the plane from hijackers.[47][48]

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the roads and grounds around the Capitol have undergone dramatic changes. The United States Capitol Police have also installed checkpoints to inspect vehicles at specific locations around Capitol Hill,[49][50] and have closed a section of one street indefinitely.[50] The level of screening employed varies. On the main east-west thoroughfares of Constitution and Independence Avenues, barricades are implanted in the roads that can be raised in the event of an emergency. Trucks larger than pickups are interdicted by the Capitol Police and are instructed to use other routes. On the checkpoints at the shorter cross streets, the barriers are typically kept in a permanent "emergency" position, and only vehicles with special permits are allowed to pass. All Capitol visitors are screened by a magnetometer, and all items that visitors may bring inside the building are screened by an x-ray device. The Capitol bans weapons, battery operated devices, recording devices, bags, cans, bottles, creams, perfumes, strollers, food, beverages and knives in the Visitors' Gallery.[51] Structures ranging from scores of Jersey barriers to hundreds of ornamental bollards have been erected to obstruct the path of any vehicles that might stray from the designated roadways.[52]

Capitol Visitor Center

Opening ceremony of the Capitol Visitor Center, December 2008. The plaster cast model of the Statue of Freedom is in the foreground.

The underground, 3-level, 580,000-square-foot (54,000 m2) United States Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) opened on December 2, 2008. The CVC is meant to bring all visitors in through one handicap accessible security checkpoint, yards away from the Capitol itself, increasing security and offering visitors a place to eat, use the restroom, and learn. The estimated final cost of constructing the CVC was $621 million.[53] The project had long been in the planning stages, but the 1998 killings of two Capitol Police officers provided the impetus to start work. Construction began in the fall of 2001.

Critics say that security improvements have been the least of the project's expense. Construction delays and added features by Congress added greatly to the cost. Citizens Against Government Waste have called the CVC a "Monument to Waste".[54] However many, including those who work in the Capitol, consider it a necessary and appropriate historical project. It is located completely underground, though skylights provide views of the Capitol dome.


  1. ^ See List of capitals in the United States
  2. ^ Crew, Harvey W.; William Bensing Webb, John Wooldridge (1892). Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C.. Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing House. pp. 66. http://books.google.com/books?id=5Q81AAAAIAAJ. 
  3. ^ Allen (2001), p. 4
  4. ^ Allen (2001), p. 4-7
  5. ^ L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900's, a French ambassador to the U.S., Jean Jules Jusserand, popularized the use of L'Enfant's birth name, "Pierre Charles L'Enfant". (Reference: Bowling, Kenneth R (2002). Peter Charles L'Enfant: vision, honor, and male friendship in the early American Republic. George Washington University, Washington, D.C. ISBN 978-0-9727611-0-9). The United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. § 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant." The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as "Major Peter Charles L'Enfant" and as "Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant" on its website.
  6. ^ Allen (2001), p. 8
  7. ^ Allen (2001), p. 10
  8. ^ Allen (2001), p. 11
  9. ^ Allen (2001), p. 13-15
  10. ^ Frary (1969), p. 28
  11. ^ Allen (2001), p. 18
  12. ^ Allen (2001), p. 19
  13. ^ "William Thornton (1759-1828)". Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/adecenter/essays/B-Thornton.html. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  14. ^ Frary (1969), p. 33
  15. ^ Frary (1969), p. 34-35
  16. ^ a b Allen (2001), p. 23
  17. ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1793-07-17). "Letter: Jefferson to Washington". Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital. University of Virginia. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefThom.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=178&division=div2. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  18. ^ Frary (1969), p. 36
  19. ^ Woods, Robert O. (June 2003). "Under the Capitol Dome". Mechanical Engineering Magazine. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. http://www.memagazine.org/contents/current/features/capdome/capdome.html. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  20. ^ "A Brief Construction History of the Capitol". Architect of the Capitol. http://www.aoc.gov/cc/capitol/capitol_construction.cfm. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  21. ^ Morgan, J.D. (1899). "Maj. Pierre Charles L'Enfant". Records of the Columbia Historical Society 2: 120. 
  22. ^ Hazelton (1907), p. 84
  23. ^ Allen, William C. (1995). In the Greatest Solemn Dignity - The Capitol's Four Cornerstones. Government Printing Office. pp. 7. 
  24. ^ Frary (1969), p. 37-39
  25. ^ Frary (1969), p. 44-45
  26. ^ Carter II, Edward C. (1971-1972). "Benjamin Henry Latrobe and the Growth and Development of Washington, 1798-1818". Records of the Columbia Historical Society: 139. 
  27. ^ "Capitol slave labor studied". Associated Press (The Washington Times). June 1, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20050604031125/http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050531-110046-7574r.htm. 
  28. ^ "Timeline". White House Historical Association. http://www.whitehousehistory.org/05/subs/05_c.html. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  29. ^ "District of Columbia - Inventory of Historic Sites". District of Columbia: Office of Planning. Government of the District of Columbia. 2004-09-01. http://www.planning.dc.gov/planning/frames.asp?doc=/planning/lib/planning/preservation/hp_inventory/inventory_narrative_sep_2004.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  30. ^ "America's Favorite Architecture". Harris Interactive. American Institute of Architects. 2007. http://favoritearchitecture.org/afa150.php. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  31. ^ http://www.american-architecture.info/USA/USA-Washington/DC-004.htm
  32. ^ "Capitol Visitors Center FAQ". Architect Of the Capitol. http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/Visit/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions/#q1. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  33. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". The Architect of the Capitol. http://www.aoc.gov/aoc/frequently-asked-questions.cfm#CP_JUMP_8206. 
  34. ^ AOC.gov
  35. ^ Frieze of United States History
  36. ^ "365 Steps to the Top of Capitol Hill". The New York Times: pp. Section 1, Page 22. 1997-08-10. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08/10/us/365-steps-to-the-top-of-capitol-hill.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  37. ^ Logan, Mrs. John A. (Mary Simmerson) (1901). Thirty Years in Washington; or, Life and Scenes in Our National Capital. Hartford, Connecticut: A. D. Worthington & Co.. pp. 78. OCLC 29540458. http://books.google.com/books?id=oD8VAAAAYAAJ&printsec=titlepage&client=firefox-a&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  38. ^ http://www.h-net.org/~dclist/building_height
  39. ^ "The House Chamber". http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/art_artifacts/virtual_tours/house_chamber/index.html. 
  40. ^ Carrier, Thomas J. (2000). The White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court: historic self-guided tours. Images of America. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 84. ISBN 0738505579. OCLC 44503337. http://books.google.com/books?id=vU4stRA8OUQC&pg=PA84&dq=%22United+States+Capitol%22+%22Let+us+develop+the+resources+of+our+land%22&ei=gCR_So_3CZaCzAT98ojDCg&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  41. ^ "The Senate Chamber 1859–2009". http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/h_multi_sections_and_teasers/Senate_Chamber.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  42. ^ "The Senate Chamber: Senate Vice Presidential Bust Collection". United States Senate. http://www.senate.gov/vtour/vpbust.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  43. ^ Jon Grinspan. "Trying to Assassinate Andrew Jackson". http://www.americanheritage.com/people/articles/web/20070130-richard-lawrence-andrew-jackson-assassination-warren-r-davis.shtml. Retrieved November 11 2008. 
  44. ^ Kessler, Ronald (November 9, 1983). "Capitol Bombing: Group Hit Other Targets, FBI Believes". The Washington Post. 
  45. ^ Seppy, Tom (February 12, 1985). "Judge Finds Four in Contempt in Bombing Probe". The Associated Press. 
  46. ^ Rowley, James (September 7, 1990). "Three Leftists Plead Guilty to Bombing the U.S. Capitol". The Associated Press. 
  47. ^ "Al-Jazeera offers accounts of 9/11 planning". CNN. September 12, 2002. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/09/12/alqaeda.911.claim/index.html. 
  48. ^ Report of the 9/11 Commission, US Govt Printing Office
  49. ^ United States Capitol Police (2004-08-02). "Increased Security on Capitol Grounds". Press release. http://www.uscapitolpolice.gov/pressreleases/2004/pr_08-02-04.html. Retrieved 2006-09-26. 
  50. ^ a b Lyndsey Layton and Manny Fernandez (2004-08-03). "Street Closing Irks D.C. Leaders: Checkpoints Set Up Near World Bank, IMF and Capitol". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33730-2004Aug2.html. Retrieved 2006-09-26. 
  51. ^ "Prohibited items", house.gov
  52. ^ WashingtonPost.com
  53. ^ "Capitol Visitor Center Fact Sheet". Capitol Visitor Center, Architect of the Capitol. Spring 2008. http://www.aoc.gov/cvc/project_info/upload/CVC%20Fact%20Sheet%20Spring%202008_1.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-14. 
  54. ^ Olczak, Jesse (February 28, 2005). "Capitol Visitor Center - Monument to Government Waste". Citizens Against Government Waste. http://www.cagw.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8684. 


Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 38°53′23″N 77°0′32″W / 38.88972°N 77.00889°W / 38.88972; -77.00889

Preceded by
Tallest Building in Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
Old Post Office Building (Washington, D.C.)
Preceded by
Tennessee State Capitol
Tallest building in the United States outside of New York City
Succeeded by
Illinois State Capitol

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Washington, D.C./Capitol Hill article)

From Wikitravel

The U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building

Capitol Hill is a venerable neighborhood just east of the Capitol building, best known as the main residence in the city for the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. government, and for the staffers who run the place. Rare is the visitor who skips a visit to the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court steps, or the Library of Congress, but time permitting you should make an effort to head further east to see this beautiful neighborhood, and to have a nice meal on Barracks Row while listening to the politicos chatter away. Even further east is the area's other big attraction, RFK Stadium.


Capitol Hill, just east of the Mall, plays a central role in the country's political life, as two of the three branches of the federal government—the legislative and the judicial—are located here. The government spills far over into the neighborhood itself, as this is the favorite residential section of town for congressional staffers, as well as any other type of politico you can imagine. Streets are abuzz with intense political debate, and you'll encounter this head on when visiting a neighborhood bar or restaurant.

Capitol Hill is worth exploring regardless of your interest in politics, though. It is a beautiful historic neighborhood of eighteenth and nineteenth century rowhouses in a wide range of architectural styles, and a wandering stroll from the Capitol to Barracks Row along residential side streets is a nice way to take in this quintessentially Washingtonian neighborhood. The upscale dining scene here has exploded in recent years, particularly along Barracks Row (centered on actual seventeenth century U.S. Marines barracks at 8th and I St) and along Pennsylvania Ave. North of the Capitol Grounds is grandiose Union Station, which is both a major point of entry into the city, and also a historical landmark in its own right, with a beautiful, gilt main hall. The other big historical attraction is the huge Eastern Market, which is a fine place to browse, admire, or grab something good to eat.

By metro

The Blue and Orange lines have stations just south of the Capitol Grounds at Federal Center and Capitol South. Further from the city center Eastern Market and then Stadium-Armory can be reached on the same line. The former is the most convenient stop for exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood, as well as the eponymous market and Barracks Row. Stadium-Armory is closest to both RFK Stadium and the Congressional Cemetery.

The most prominent stop is certainly at Union Station, 40 Massachusetts Ave, ☎ +1 202 289-1908 on the Red Line, which is an easy walk from the Capitol, and is right by the train station.

By train

Union Station is the central train station for the whole city, and trains come and go primarily along the ACELA Northeast Corridor, although you can likely find a train heading in any direction, and the majority of them are owned by Amtrak.

Union Station is also the end point for the MARC Trains heading north through the Capital Region of Maryland to Baltimore. As the MARC serves primarily commuters, train departures and arrivals are concentrated at the beginning and end of the work day.

By bus

Routes #90, #92, and #93 [1] are the most useful routes here—they run along 8th St from Barracks Row, past Eastern Market, and then north along Florida Ave to U St.

#96 and #97 [2] run south from Union Station, right past the Capitol Building, then head east along E Capitol St. The former then heads south to the Congressional Cemetery, while the latter goes to RFK Stadium.

Coming from the Mall, #90, #92, #94, #95, and #96 head east along Independence Ave, and then down Pennsylvania Ave.

The D.C. Circulator' Union Station–Navy Yard Blue line runs M-F 6AM-6PM (extended and weekend service on Nationals game days) from Union Station, past the Capitol Building, Eastern Market, and Barracks Row, before heading south to Navy Yard.

By car

Street parking throughout Capitol Hill's side streets, once you get far enough east of the Capitol Building, and away from Eastern Market and Barracks Row, is usually not too hard to find. The traffic patterns are disastrously convoluted, though—even by D.C. standards. Main east-west routes run along Constitution and Independence, as well as Pennsylvania and Maryland Ave. Coming from east of the river, the main bridges are at Pennsylvania Ave and E Capitol St. There are no main roads heading north-south throughout the area, only the complex diagonals.

RFK Stadium has big public lots, where you can actually park your car without having to sell your house, and it's a relatively easy drive from outside the city, as it's just off I-295/DC-295. The traffic, on the other hand, is properly a nightmare in about a square mile radius around the stadium during events.

Taxis are easy to catch around the clock in the western portion of this area, particularly around monuments and main dining strips, but you will not find them in the residential areas.

The Contemplation of Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
The Contemplation of Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

The main attractions on Capitol Hill are all concentrated in the U.S. Capitol Complex, grounds managed by the Architect of the Capitol, covering roughly the three blocks east of the Mall. These include the Capitol Building and its grounds, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and congressional office buildings.

  • Capitol Building, +1 202 226-8000, [3]. M-Sa 8:30AM-4:30PM. The center of the legislative branch of America is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as numerous impressive paintings, statues, historical exhibits, and one magnificent dome. A new Visitor Center recently opened, which features a exhibition of the history of the Capitol and of Congress. Tours of the Capitol building can be arranged through the Visitor Center website (or by calling or emailing your Representative's or Senator's office a few weeks in advance). Tours start from within the Visitor Center. You may not bring food/drinks inside—if that's a problem, nip over to a place such as the Library of Congress where you can deposit your bag and come back. If lines for security are long, an alternative is to use the tunnel from the Library of Congress. Free.  edit
  • Library of Congress, 10 1st St SE, +1 202 707-8000, [4]. M-Sa 10:30AM-5:30PM. Originally founded by the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, this grand building, also called the Jefferson Library, has the largest collection of books in the world. The most popular points of interest are the massive main reading room and Great Hall. On the Winter and Summer solstices the Great Hall is filled with an odd silver glow that gives the impression you are surrounded by floating clouds, and this makes those days the most crowded. The main reading room is known as the Sacred Room, and is absolutely stunning. You must be 18 or older to use the reading rooms and have a user card, which can be obtained by presenting a driver's license or completing a self registration form. Guided tours will not bring you into the reading room, but will take you up in the dome, where you can see the room in its full glory. There are also a number of rotating exhibitions from the Library's vast collection on display at any one time, as is a Gutenberg Bible. Free.  edit
  • Supreme Court, First St & Maryland Ave NE, +1 202 479-3211, [5]. M-F 9AM-4:30PM. This is the center of the U.S. Judicial Branch and of the three branches is the one that commands the greatest respect in American political life. Visitors can watch the court in session M-W, from October-April, with admission on a first-come, first-served basis. The rest of the year, public lectures are held every hour in the courtroom. The spiral staircases on the sides of the court room are beautiful and impressive parts of the building not to be missed. Here's a bit of trivia: the court didn't even have its own building until 1935, until then it was held in the Capitol building.  edit
  • U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave SW, +1 202 225-8333, [6]. 10AM-5PM. The national conservatory is one of the least visited attractions around the Mall, and that is one of the best reasons to visit. The botanical collection is extensive, the climate is often a welcome respite, and the catwalk through the leaf canopy in the jungle room is a favorite. Bartholdi Park, south of the conservatory, is small but majestic, centered around the Bartholdi Fountain.  edit

Capitol Grounds Monuments

Supreme Court spiral staircase
Supreme Court spiral staircase

The presidential monument choices on the Capitol Grounds are odd. Each of the three presidents honored here are better known for presidential trivia and undistinguished presidencies. President Garfield is best known for holding the nation's shortest presidency of little more than six months, ended by his assassination in 1881. His near predecessor Ulysses S Grant is considered one of the country's worst presidents, whose tenure was marked by corruption and alcoholism. He is better remembered as the Union General-in-Chief during the Civil War, and indeed the monument is solely dedicated to that angle. The third president honored here is perhaps the most surprising. His presidency is remembered as a fine one, if thoroughly unremarkable, but he is best known for the most undignified distinction of the nation's heaviest president, who infamously got stuck in the presidential bathtub.

  • Statue of Freedom. A classical female figure stands prominently atop the Capitol Building's dome. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States with thirteen stripes. Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans. She would, no doubt, be an iconic emblem of America, were it not so hard to make her out without binoculars  edit
  • Peace Monument. A monument in memorial of U.S. naval deaths at sea during the Civil War stands at the northeastern end of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, bearing an assembly of four statues. Grief weeps over History at the top. Facing outwards is Victory, holding a laurel of victory, and flanked by young Mars and Neptune. Facing the Capitol is the statue of Peace, holding an olive branch, and surrounded by symbols of prosperity.  edit
  • James Garfield Monument. In tribute to the tragically slain president, the statue's base is surrounded by three statues of a student, a warrior, and a statesman, representing his distinguished academic, military, and political careers, which preceded his short tenure as the nation's leader.  edit
  • Robert Taft Memorial. President Taft's memorial is far more dignified, happily, than his role in presidential trivia. His large (and flattering) figure stands in front of an enormous carillon tower with 27 bells. The bells ring every quarter-hour, although the best time to visit is undoubtedly the Fourth of July, when the bells ring to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner at 2PM.  edit
  • Ulysses S Grant Memorial. Grant's monument occupies the single most prominent location on the Capitol Grounds, directly over the reflecting pool. His statue emphasizes his cool, calm demeanor in the midst of battle—he is flanked on both sides by artillery and cavalry units clearly in the heat of battle.  edit
  • Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E St SE. All sorts of notables from American history found their final resting place here, from composer John Sousa to FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover.  edit
  • National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave NE (Next to Union Station), +1 202 357-2700, [7]. 10AM-5:30PM daily. The Smithsonian's own philatelist Shangri-La has one of the world's largest collections of rare stamps, as well as exhibitions of how mail has been delivered throughout history, and other ways that the mail shapes culture. Free.  edit
  • Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, +1 202 289-1908, [8]. Not just a train station or metro stop, the grandiose 1908 Beaux Arts building by legendary American architect Daniel Burnham makes it worth a look—the ceremonial entrance is stunning. Open long after the museums close, it contains shops, restaurants and a cinema. A large monument to Christopher Columbus stands outside the building.  edit
The Great Hall inside the Library of Congress
The Great Hall inside the Library of Congress
  • Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street SE, +1 202 544–7077 (fax: +1 202 544–7420), [9]. M-Sa 10AM-4PM. A library, performance venue, and a museum all rolled into one. The library is the single most impressive feature—it houses the largest collection of the Bard's works in the world—although the library itself is geared towards researchers, not travelers. The Shakespearean performances here are top-notch, and occasionally outshine the bigger Shakespeare Theatre Company in the East End (although the performances here can be more uneven). There are also frequent lectures, musical performances, etc., which can be a good excuse to visit. The small museum has a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and an Elizabethan garden in the back, and is nice to visit combined with a performance. Plays: $20-50 (occasional student discounts).  edit
  • RFK Stadium, 2400 E Capitol St SE, +1 202 547-9077, [10]. RFK is D.C.'s long-time stadium, with a location seemingly planned by L'Enfant, and once one of football's greatest venues, but its age is starting to really show. And that's not just the building—the tenants are all jumping ship. First the Redskins moved to Maryland, then the new Washington Nationals headed for the Waterfront. D.C. United is still here, and their games are about the most fun you'll ever have at a soccer game in the U.S., kept raucous by both the area's enormous Latino population and the enduring success of the club. But they too are planning an exit strategy—possibly to Poplar Point in Anacostia. If you come here, for soccer, a concert, or another big event, remember that while it may not look so pretty, in its heyday it was one of the greats. United tickets generally from $25.  edit


Union Station and Eastern Market are big shopping destinations in the city. Union Station houses a big shopping mall inside with plenty of high end and mid-range stores, while Eastern Market is much more offbeat, and geared to a lazy day of browsing. Outside these two heavyweights, Capitol Hill is an unorthodox shopping destination, but it does have a relatively small collection of unique and offbeat shops dispersed throughout the neighborhood, especially on Pennsylvania Ave near the Library of Congress and by Barracks Row.

  • Capitol Hill Books, 657 C St SE, +1 202 544-1621, [11]. M-F 11:30AM-6PM, Sa-Su 9AM-6PM. Housed in a small, old rowhouse next to Eastern Market, this bookstore is a local favorite, jam-packed with used books on every imaginable subject. For a delightful surprise, be sure to open the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.  edit
  • Eastern Market, 306 7th St SE, +1 202 698-5253, [12]. Tu-F 7AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 9AM-6PM. D.C.'s biggest public market has been housed since 1873 in a nineteenth century brick building, just a few blocks from the Capitol. The market itself is open every day, but weekends bring an additional influx of vendors ranging from local farmers to antique furniture. The market burnt down in 2007, and was for a while housed in a temporary structure, but it has just reopened in June 2009.  edit
  • Homebody, 715 8th St SE, +1 202 554-8445, [13]. Tu-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su noon-6PM. Selling mostly home furnishings, this store is better suited to locals than travelers, but its selection is unique and stylish enough to merit a visit if only to browse. And there are original works of art and accessories, which are easier to take home.  edit
  • Groovy DC, 428 8th St SE, +1 202 544-6633, [14]. M-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su noon-5PM. This is a very eclectic gift shop with unique gift cards, gags, and other arts & crafts. It's a little on the expensive side.  edit
  • Remix Fashion Vintage, 645 Pennsylvania Ave SE, +1 202 547-0211. M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM-8PM, Su noon-6PM. A well curated and well priced mens and womens vintage store, with knowledgeable staff. This is another D.C. favorite that few visitors would ever find.  edit
Historic Barracks Row
Historic Barracks Row

Capitol Hill's dining scene is built on locals. Neither suburbanites nor travelers seem to know that there is a lively neighborhood east of the Mall, and even Washingtonians from snobby NW addresses are only starting to wake up to Barracks Row. That's all good news—restaurants here cater to repeat diners, and to a sophisticated crowd. While this is starting to change, you are still unlikely to have a genuinely bad experience here.

Union Station offers just the opposite—plenty of bad options catering to diners who will never be back. B. Smith's is the one restaurant inside worth seeking out. Otherwise, knock-off Chicago pizza at Uno's is OK for a sit down meal; the cafeteria food on the bottom level is best for the cheapest and quickest meals.

  • Bistro Italiano, 320 D St NE, +1 202 546-4522. M-F 11AM-2PM, Sa 11AM-2PM,5PM-10PM. If you come to this neighborhood restaurant, everyone will necessarily assume that you are a local. It's your traditional Italian-American checkerboard tablecloth restaurant, and only a little larger than a hole-in-the-wall. The food for the price in this neighborhood is exceptional. $8-15.  edit
  • Mangiardo & Sons, 1317 Pennsylvania Ave SE, +1 202 543-6212. M-F 7:30AM-3PM. This deli has served classic Italian subs to locals for about 55 years, who will universally tell you these are the best sandwiches in the city. Order the "G-man" if you want a local favorite. $4-6.50.  edit
  • Pete's Diner, 212 2nd St SE, +1 202 544-7335. 5AM-3AM daily. Somehow there's a little greasy spoon next to the Library of Congress. The prices are extremely low in these parts, the waitresses are friendly, and the diner food is certainly adequate. $3-6.50.  edit
  • Cafe 8, 424 8th St SE, +1 202 547-1555, [15]. Su-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Some argue that Cafe 8 is being outshined by newer flashy Mediterranean cooking on the Hill (like Cava Mezze), but this remains a reliable, established place for a good dinner on Barracks Row. The head chef hails from Cafe Divan in the Northwest, and the best items on the menu are accordingly skewed towards Turkish cuisine. As with Divan, the mezzes oddly enough are overshadowed by the great kabobs (especially the Iskender, and good Iskender is hard to find outside of Turkey). The Turkish very thin take on pizza—pides, are also a hit, and a cheaper option. $9-20.  edit
  • Cafe Berlin, 322 Massachusetts Ave NE, +1 202 543-7656, [16]. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 4PM-10PM. Dinner is overpriced and not in the same league as other options on the Hill. Lunch (before 4PM), on the other hand, is a steal. And the back patio is a wonderful place to drink a few draught German beers on a warm day. $8-30.  edit


Capitol Hill is somewhat of a budding Georgetown, and the high-end restaurant scene, long one of the city's best, is really taking off lately. Reservations are a must at most of the following.

  • B. Smith's, (in Union Station, to the right upon entering), +1 202 289-6188, [17]. Su-F 11:30AM-3PM,5PM-9PM; Sa noon-3PM,5-9PM. Some of D.C.'s best upscale soul food and Creole cuisine is served here, in a beautiful, dining room, which was once the presidential waiting room at the station. B. Smith's is rather famous with visiting celebrities, as well as national politicians. They'll probably get a private room, but you might nonetheless see some famous fellow diners. Best for brunch/lunch. $25-60.  edit
  • Belga Cafe, 514 8th St SE, +1 202 544-0100, [18]. M-Th 11:30AM-3:30PM,5:30PM-10PM; F 11:30AM-11PM; Sa 10AM-11PM; Su 10AM-9:30PM. One of the neighborhood's longest running favorites on Barracks Row serves perfectly fine Belgian cuisine, and has at all times at least five fine Belgian beers on tap (and a host more besides). Reliable food, best for dinner, and pricey. $20-50.  edit
  • Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse, 101 Constitution Ave NW, +1 202 547-8100, [19]. Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-F 5:30PM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10:30PM. Charlie Palmer is a national celebrity chef, and his steakhouse vies with two others for the title of the city's favorite steak (and those Republicans like their steak). On the scale of the three, it sits comfortably between trendy and traditional. And of course, it sits somewhere the other steakhouses do not—literally right across the street from the Capitol Building. The views are fantastic. Don't worry if you don't like steak, as this is an all-around outstanding restaurant, with a variety of excellent American dishes. $35-85.  edit
  • Johnny's Half Shell, 400 N Capitol St NW, +1 202 737-0400, [20]. M-F 7AM-9:30AM,11:30AM-2:30PM,5PM-10PM; Sa 5PM-10PM. Seafood restaurants are popular throughout D.C. and the whole of the Mid-Atlantic, but many of D.C.'s offerings are disappointing, and cater more to visitors and clueless politicians. Johnny's is a big exception, and some of the best entries on the menu are from outside the region (like the Maine lobster). $35-65.  edit
  • Montmarte, 327 7th St SE, +1 202 544-1244. Tu-Su 11:30AM-2:30PM; Tu-Th 5:30PM-10PM; F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM; Su 5:30PM-9PM. D.C. has only a few standout, dedicated French restaurants, and this is one of them. It's considered one of the best restaurants throughout all of Capitol Hill, and with the exception of Citronelle in Georgetown, the best French in the city. The atmosphere, unlike the cuisine, is casual. $25-40.  edit
  • Sonoma, 223 Pennsylvania Ave SE, +1 202 544-8088, [21]. Lunch: M-F 10:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM. The current dining rage in the country is Italian-inspired cooking with the California philosophy of simplicity, fine (Californian) wines, and local ingredients. This restaurant has excelled in this category, and packs in serious foodies into a crowded, but very trendy space—reservations are a must every day of the week. The lounge upstairs is similarly beautiful and fashionable (and crowded), with a fireplace and big windows. $20-45.  edit
  • Capitol City Brewing Company (Cap City), 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, +1 202 842-2337, [22]. M-Sa 11AM-1:30AM, Su 11AM-midnight. Cap City is always packed and popular. For that very reason it deserves something of a warning—the drinks are below average and overpriced, ditto the food, and both the crowd and the staff tend to be rude, especially on crowded weekends. On the upside, the building is rather beautiful, as it is in the Old Post Office Building, and it has a rooftop patio.  edit
  • Banana Cafe & Piano Bar, 500 8th St SE, +1 202 543-5906, [23]. M-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. This Barracks Row Cuban/Tex Mex/Puerto Rican bar and restaurant has a piano bar on the second floor with a piano man well and above the average. The food here is fine; the Cuban food is better. The upstairs bar has an excellent happy hour special upstairs featuring $3 margaritas, and there is patio seating in good weather.  edit
  • Hawk and Dove, 329 Pennsylvania Ave SE, +1 202 543-3300, [24]. M-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 10AM-1AM. Capitol Hill dive bars don't really live up to that name. The neighborhood is populated with yuppies and Hill staffers. The name refers to general positions on U.S. national security policy. TVs are tuned to CNN. Regardless, this is a good bar, with cheaper drinks than you'll get elsewhere in the neighborhood, and it approximates the look well enough!  edit
  • Mr Henry's, 601 Pennsylvania Ave SE, +1 202 546-8412, [25]. 11:15AM-midnight daily. Once the regular home to Roberta Flack, this place has seen some ridiculously famous clientele—Burt Bacharach, Carmen McRae, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Ramsey Lewis, and Johnny Mathis were all fans. The live music continues upstairs, but for the most part this is just a nice neighborhood style and mildly divey pub, particularly gay/lesbian-friendly, and a block off Eastern Market.  edit
  • Tunnicliff's, 222 7th St SE, +1 202 544-5680. M-Th 11AM-1AM, F 11AM-2AM, Sa-Su 10AM-2AM. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, this is just a good bar. Prices are cheap, it's right by Eastern Market, wooden interior, and there's patio seating. The menu offers decent Cajun cuisine. As a plus, dogs are allowed on the patio, and rest assured, they come in droves.  edit


A small hotel or B&B on the Hill is a great choice for a stay in D.C., and one that is usually overlooked. It's a great neighborhood for walking, has a fine nightlife and dining scene, and is well-served by Metro.

  • Carriage House, 3rd & South Carolina Ave SE, +1 877 893-3233, [26]. Capitol Hill is full of lovely old residences, and this provides a nice opportunity to stay in one. It is furnished with antiques, has WiFi, separate coach house, central courtyard, and an (uninspired) continental breakfast. $125-215.  edit
  • Maison Orleans B&B, 414 5th St SE, +1 202 544-3694 (), [27]. A little B&B with three rooms in a beautiful old rowhouse. Friendly and knowledgeable owner, small garden in the back, WiFi, continental breakfast. $125-180.  edit
  • Capitol Hill Suites, 200 C St SE, +1 202 543-6000, [28]. This is a fine, undistinguished (but for the location) option for extended stay on Capitol Hill. If you just want to get out of the sun for a second and rest your bones, the lobby is quite comfy. $170-370.  edit
  • Hotel George Washington, 15 E St NW, +1 202 347-4200, [29]. A trendy boutique with airy rooms and a French restaurant next to Union Station. $140-300.  edit
  • Liaison Hotel, 415 New Jersey Ave NW, +1 202 638-1616, [30]. A boutique hotel between Union Station and the Capitol, whose rooftop pool (only open during warm months) has a fantastic view. $140-250.  edit
  • Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW, +1 202 737-1234, [31]. The hotel occupies a full city block in the heart of Capitol Hill, between the Capitol and Union Station, and has a lovely, large, plant-filled atrium. Avoid the absurdly overpriced hotel restaurant, unless you're in the mood for a $10 bowl cornflakes. $250-450.  edit
  • Phoenix Park Hotel, 520 N Capitol St NW, +1 202 638-6900, [32]. Hotel of the Irish! Rooms are furnished in an eighteenth century Irish Manor style, Irish entertainers are at the Dubliner bar, and it's also right next to Union Station. $220-500.  edit


The Raleigh-based chain Port City Java, 701 North Carolina Ave SE, +1 202 544-7770, M-F 6:30AM-7PM, offers free WiFi. Otherwise, the two public libraries in the neighborhood offer both public terminals and free WiFi, or you could just enjoy the public WiFi on the steps of the Capitol Building!

  • Northeast Branch Library, 330 7th St NE, +1 202 698-3320, [33]. M,W 1PM-9PM; Tu,Th-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM; Su 1PM-5PM.  edit
  • Southeast Branch Library, 403 7th St SE, +1 202 698-3377, [34]. M,W,Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM; Tu,Th 1PM-9PM; Su 1PM-5PM.  edit
  • The obvious destination is just west of the Hill, the National Mall, and the proximity is one of the main reasons to stay on Capitol Hill in the first place.
  • For a radical change of pace from Capitol Hill nightlife, consider heading just north to the Atlas District to have a beer at one of its very offbeat bars and clubs.
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Simple English

A capital is a city that is home to a government. A capitol is a building where the legislature meets. For the capital of the United States, see Washington, D.C.
United States Capitol
File:Capitol Building Full
The west face of the United States Capitol
Architectural style American Neoclassicism
Town Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Country United States of America
Started September 18 1793
Size 274 acres (1.11 km²)
Cost $412,000

The United States Capitol is the building where the United States Congress meets. It is the center of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall.

The capitol has a large dome in the center, above a rotunda - a large space that is shaped like a circle. There are two wings that are connected to the rotunda on opposite sides. The north wing is where the Senate meets and the south wing is where the House of Representatives meets. These wings are also called chambers. On the top floors of the chambers are galleries, or balconies where people can watch the Senate and House of Representatives from above.

The Statue of Freedom is on top of the capitol.


The first capital city of the United States was New York City. At this time, Congress met in City Hall (Federal Hall) from 1785 to 1790. When the capital was moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1800, the Philadelphia County Building (Congress Hall) became the capitol. In 1800, the capital moved again to Washington, D.C., and a new capitol building was built.

[[File:|left|thumb|200px|Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1861, beneath the unfinished capitol dome.]]The capitol was designed by William Thornton. Construction started in 1793, but it was not completely finished until almost twenty years later. The Senate started to meet in the capitol in 1800, when the Senate wing was finished. The House started to meet in the capitol in 1807, even though the House wing was not finished until 1811.

At that time, it was not as big as it is now. The dome in the center of the building was smaller and made of wood. In 1814, the capitol was set on fire by the British Army during the War of 1812. In the 1850s and 1860s, the capitol was fully repaired, and the wooden dome was replaced with a larger iron dome. The walls of the Senate wing were painted with many murals about events in American History. Inside the rotunda, a large fresco was also painted on the ceiling during the repair.

The Supreme Court also met in the Capitol until its own building was completed in 1935.

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