United States Capitol crypt

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The United States Capitol crypt, older image taken looking east. Us capitol crypt.jpg
The United States Capitol crypt, older image taken looking east.

The United States Capitol crypt is the large circular room filled with forty neoclassical Doric columns directly beneath the United States Capitol rotunda. It was built originally to support the rotunda as well as offer an entrance to Washington's Tomb. It currently serves as a museum and a repository for thirteen statues of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Contents

Origin and construction

The crypt originated with the initial designs drawn up for the United States Capitol by William Thornton, which called for a rotunda to be placed between the two wings of the building. [1] The room beneath the rotunda was therefore required to support the large space above it. However, construction did not begin on the central part of the Capitol, where the rotunda and the room beneath it were located, until after the War of 1812.

Construction on the Capitol itself began in 1793, when the first American President, George Washington, laid down the cornerstone to the north wing of the building. [2] Upon the death of Washington in 1799, the designers of the Capitol went to Martha Washington and requested permission to build a tomb for her husband in the Capitol. She acquiesced to this request and plans were made to construct the tomb underneath the floor that supported the rotunda. This area was designated the crypt, as it would serve as the entry to the tomb.[ citation needed ]

The crypt in 2007, looking southwest from south entrance. USCapitolCrypt2.jpg
The crypt in 2007, looking southwest from south entrance.
Capitol crypt USA-US Capitol2.JPG
Capitol crypt

Delays wracked the construction efforts of the Capitol's builders, notably the interruption by the War of 1812, when all construction came to a halt. In August 1814, the British captured the city of Washington and set fire to the Capitol, nearly destroying the entire building. Thus, when construction recommenced after the war ended in 1815, it was initially to rebuild what had been lost to the fire. [3]

The central section of the Capitol comprising the rotunda and the crypt was not completed until 1827 under the oversight of Architect of the Capitol Charles Bulfinch. [4] However, plans to re-inter Washington in the Capitol fell apart when attempts were made to retrieve his body from Mount Vernon, the President's home, due to restrictions of Washington's will and refusal of the plantation's then owner, John Washington. [5]

A marble compass was set into the floor of the chamber to mark the point where the four quadrants of the District of Columbia meet. [6]

Usage

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the crypt was used for bicycle parking. [7]

Today, the crypt serves as the main thoroughfare of the ground floor of the Capitol and is a stop for all Capitol Tours provided through the Capitol Visitor Center. The crypt also contains the Magna Carta Case, a gold case which held one of the copies of Magna Carta when it was on loan to the United States for the Bicentennial celebration.

There are 12 (previously 13) statues from the National Statuary Hall Collection, representing the 13 original states, located in the crypt. They are:

The bronze statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Virginia (by Edward V. Valentine, 1934) was removed on 21 December 2020. It is planned to be replaced by a statue of civil rights activist Barbara Johns. [8]

Related Research Articles

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Franklin Simmons

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Hall of Columns

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Anne Whitney created two public statues of Samuel Adams. One, made in 1876, resides in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol, Washington, D.C.. The other, made in 1880, is located in front of Faneuil Hall Plaza in Boston.

<i>John C. Calhoun</i> (Ruckstull)

John C. Calhoun is a marble sculpture depicting the American statesman of the same name by Frederick Ruckstull, installed in the United States Capitol's crypt, in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. The statue was gifted by the U.S. state of South Carolina in 1910.

<i>James A. Garfield</i> (Niehaus)

James A. Garfield refers to two different sculptures depicting the American president of the same name by Charles Henry Niehaus. One is installed in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the other is installed at the United States Capitol's rotunda, in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Statue of Nathanael Greene (U.S. Capitol)

Nathaniel Greene is an 1870 marble statue of Nathanael Greene by Henry Kirke Brown, installed in the United States Capitol, in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. It is one of two statues donated by the state of Rhode Island. The statue portrays Greene dressed in the uniform of a Revolutionary War general, holding a sword in his left hand.

Statue of Peter Muhlenberg (U.S. Capitol)

Peter Muhlenberg, or John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, is an 1889 marble sculpture depicting the American clergyman, soldier, and politician of the same name by Blanche Nevin, installed in the United States Capitol's crypt, in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. It is one of two statues donated by the state of Pennsylvania. The statue was accepted into the collection on February 28, 1889 by Pennsylvania Congressman Daniel Ermentrout.

Statue of Richard Stockton

Richard Stockton is a marble sculpture depicting the American lawyer, jurist, legislator of the same name by Henry Kirke Brown, installed in the United States Capitol's crypt, in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. The statue was donated by the U.S. state of New Jersey in 1888.

References

  1. "History of the U.S. Capitol Building". Architect of the Capitol.
  2. "History of the U.S. Capitol Building". Architect of the Capitol.
  3. "History of the U.S. Capitol Building". Architect of the Capitol.
  4. "History of the U.S. Capitol Building". Architect of the Capitol.
  5. Savage, Kirk (2009). Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape . p.  49. ISBN   9780520271333.
  6. "Crypt". Architect of the Capitol.
  7. Leo, Andrea. "From the Archives: Bike Racks on Capitol Hill". aoc.gov. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  8. Forgey, Quint (21 December 2020). "Robert E. Lee statue removed from Capitol". Politico . Retrieved 8 January 2021.

Coordinates: 38°53′24″N77°00′32″W / 38.89000°N 77.00889°W / 38.89000; -77.00889