United States Capitol dome

Last updated

The dome of the United States Capitol building at night US Capitol dome Jan 2006.jpg
The dome of the United States Capitol building at night

The United States Capitol dome is the dome situated above the rotunda of the United States Capitol. The dome is 288 feet (88 m) in height and 96 feet (29 m) in diameter. [1] It was designed by Thomas U. Walter, the fourth Architect of the Capitol, and constructed between 1855 and 1866 at a cost of $1,047,291 (equivalent to $14.8 million in 2019). [2] [3]

Contents

The dome is not stone, but rather cast iron carefully painted to appear to be made of the same stone as the main capitol building. It is actually two domes, one inside the other, and the total weight is 9.1 million pounds (4,100 t). [4] The iron for the dome was cast by the foundry of Janes, Fowler, Kirtland & Company, owned by Adrian Janes in the Bronx, New York. [5] The dome marks the origin on street maps of Washington, D.C.

First dome

The origin of the first dome began with the Capitol design contest sponsored by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, at the behest of President George Washington, in 1792. The winner of the contest, Doctor William Thornton, called for a dome in his original design for the building. [6] Most vividly, Thornton drew upon the Roman Pantheon for inspiration with the Neoclassical dome and associated portico. [7]

United States Capitol with Charles Bulfinch's dome, 1846 Capitol1846.jpg
United States Capitol with Charles Bulfinch's dome, 1846

Thornton's replacement, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the second Architect of the Capitol, altered Thornton's design plan on the exterior by adding an octagonal drum to visually separate the bottom of the dome from the top of the building's pediment. The third Architect of the Capitol, Charles Bulfinch, altered the exterior profile of the plans still further by increasing the dome's height, which he later wrote was at the insistence of the President and Congress. [8]

In 1822, Bulfinch requested funds for the construction of the center of the building, and President James Monroe signed off on an appropriation of $120,000. This included the building of a double-dome structure, a stone, brick, and wooden interior dome to rise 96 feet (29 m) above the rotunda floor (matching the dimensions of the Pantheon), and a wooden exterior dome covered in copper that would rise to 140 feet (43 m). Set at the crown of the exterior dome was an oculus 24 feet (7.3 m) wide, which provided illumination to the rotunda floor below. Bulfinch completed the project in 1823. [9] For more than two decades, the green copper dome of the Capitol greeted visitors to the nation's capitol, until the 1850s. Due to the growth of the United States and the expansion and addition of new states, the size of the U.S. Congress had grown accordingly and pushed the limits of the capacity of the Capitol. Under the guidance of the fourth Architect of the Capitol, Thomas U. Walter, extensions were built onto the north and south wings of the building. In the process, the new, longer building made the original Bulfinch dome appear aesthetically displeasing (and it had in any case been the object of much prior criticism). Congress, after lobbying by Walter and Montgomery C. Meigs (then Supervising Engineer), passed legislation to build a bigger dome in 1855.

Second (current) dome

1859 cross-section drawing of the dome and supporting structure by Thomas U. Walter Section through dome of U.S. Capitol.jpg
1859 cross-section drawing of the dome and supporting structure by Thomas U. Walter

The current cast iron dome of the United States Capitol is the second dome to sit above the building. Plans began in May 1854 to build a new cast-iron dome for the United States Capitol, sold on the aesthetics of a new dome, as well as the utility of a fire-proof one. [10] Influenced by the great domes of Europe, Walter paid particular attention to the Pantheon of Paris, St Paul's Cathedral in London and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, as well as the more recent Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia, one of the first domes with an iron frame, by Auguste de Montferrand (1816–1858). [11] William Allen, Historian of the Capitol, described Walter's first design as

... a tall, ellipsodial dome standing on a two-story drum with a ring of forty columns forming a peristyle surrounding the lower half of the drum. The upper part of the drum was enriched with decorated pilasters upholding a bracketed attic. Crowning the composition was a statue standing on a slender, columned tholus ... [12]

Walter drafted a seven-foot (2.1 m) drawing of the aforementioned design and displayed it in his office, where it drew the excited attention of members of Congress in 1854. [13] A year later, on March 3, 1855, President Franklin Pierce signed off on the appropriation of $100,000 (equivalent to $2.23 million in 2019 [3] ) to build the dome. [14] Construction began after some practical changes to the original design (such as the reduction of the columns from 40 to 36) in September of that year with the removal of the dome raised by Charles Bulfinch. A unique scaffold was built inside the rotunda, designed to keep weight away from the weak center area of the floor, and a crane was set within to run on a steam-powered engine (fueled from the salvaged wood from the old dome). [15]

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished capitol dome LincolnInauguration1861a.jpg
Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished capitol dome

Over the next 11 years, the dome designed with an interior dome and exterior dome rose over the nation's capitol. By December 2, 1863, Walter was able to set the Statue of Freedom atop the dome. This was not accomplished until after Walter had been forced to revise the design of the dome to handle the statue, which had been delivered taller and heavier than requested. [16] Yet, the man who designed the dome did not see its total completion, because Thomas Walter resigned in 1865. His replacement, Edward Clark, assumed the role of finishing the last aspects of the dome. Just over a month later, in January 1866, Constantino Brumidi—who had been hired to paint a fresco on a platform above the interior dome's oculus—removed the scaffolding used during his work on the Apotheosis of Washington . This signaled the end of construction for the United States Capitol dome. [17]

Some 8,909,200 pounds (4,041.1 t) of iron were ultimately used in the construction that ran virtually 11 years. Inside, the interior dome rises to 180 feet (55 m) over the rotunda floor, and outside, the exterior dome ascends to 288 feet (88 m) including the height of the Statue of Freedom. The total cost of the dome was valued at $1,047,291 (equivalent to $14.8 million in 2019 [3] ). [2]

Apotheosis of Washington USA-US Capitol3.JPG
Apotheosis of Washington
Visitors standing on the balcony beneath the Apotheosis of Washington Balcony beneath Apotheosis of Washington.jpg
Visitors standing on the balcony beneath the Apotheosis of Washington

Visitation of the dome is highly restricted, usually offered only to members of Congress and their select guests. When looking up from the rotunda floor, the railing some 180 feet (55 m) above is barely visible. Visitors ascend a series of metal stairs between the inner and outer domes. They eventually wind their way to a balcony just underneath the Apotheosis of Washington. From this view, the painting is curved and distorted. From the balcony, metal stairs take visitors over the painting and up to the outside balcony under the tholos directly beneath the Statue of Freedom. Additional stairs lead up into the statue for maintenance.

Within the columned tholos upon which stands the Statue of Freedom, is found the Session or Convene light which signifies one or both chambers being in a night session. [18]

Restoration and conservation of the Capitol Dome's cantilevered peristyle and skirting occurred in 2012. In 2013, the Architect of the Capitol announced a tentative four-year, $10 million project to repair and conserve the Capitol dome. The project involved both interior work to the rotunda, and exterior work on the dome. The proposal would require erecting white scaffolding around the dome, stripping the paint, repairing the ironwork, repainting the dome, and installing new lighting. The work was needed because the dome, which last underwent repair and conservation in 1960, was rusting and some ironwork had fallen from the structure. Congress had appropriated no funds for the project, however. [19]

A $60-million, two-year restoration started in early 2014 included removing paint, priming and quickly repainting. Steel pins and "metal stitching" were used to repair cracks, and water damage inside was fixed. [4] Scaffolding was erected around the dome in November 2014. The project was slated to be completed and the scaffolding removed in time for the 2017 presidential inauguration, [20] and indeed all exterior scaffolding was removed by the end of summer 2016. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

United States Capitol Seat of the United States Congress

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the meeting place of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Though no longer at the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol forms the origin point for the district's street-numbering system and the district's four quadrants.

<i>Statue of Freedom</i> 19th-century statue by Thomas Crawford on top of the US Capitol

The Statue of Freedom, also known as Armed Freedom or simply Freedom, is a bronze statue designed by Thomas Crawford (1814–1857) that, since 1863, has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Originally named Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace, a U.S. government publication now states that the statue "is officially known as the Statue of Freedom." The statue depicts a female figure bearing a military helmet and holding a sheathed sword in her right hand and a laurel wreath and shield in her left.

Texas State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Texas

The Texas State Capitol is the capitol building and seat of government of the American state of Texas. Located in downtown Austin, Texas, the structure houses the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and of the Governor of Texas. Designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, it was constructed from 1882 to 1888 under the direction of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Georgia State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Georgia

The Georgia State Capitol is an architecturally and historically significant building in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The building has been named a National Historic Landmark which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As the primary office building of Georgia's government, the capitol houses the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state on the second floor, chambers in which the General Assembly, consisting of the Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives, meets annually from January to April. The fourth floor houses visitors' galleries overlooking the legislative chambers and a museum located near the rotunda in which a statue of Miss Freedom caps the dome.

Nebraska State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Nebraska

The Nebraska State Capitol is the seat of government for the U.S. state of Nebraska and is located in downtown Lincoln. Designed by New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1920, it was constructed of Indiana limestone from 1922 to 1932. The capitol houses the primary executive and judicial offices of Nebraska and is home to the Nebraska Legislature—the only unicameral state legislature in the United States.

Massachusetts State House State capitol building of the U.S. state of Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State House, also known as the Massachusetts Statehouse or the New State House, is the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. The building houses the Massachusetts General Court and the offices of the Governor of Massachusetts. The building, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, was completed in January 1798 at a cost of $133,333, and has repeatedly been enlarged since. It is considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture and among Bulfinch's finest works, and was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance.

Wyoming State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Wyoming

The Wyoming State Capitol is the state capitol and seat of government of the U.S. state of Wyoming. Built between 1886 and 1890, the capitol is located in Cheyenne and contains the chambers of the Wyoming State Legislature as well as the office of the Governor of Wyoming. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1987. The Capitol underwent an extensive three-year renovation and reopened to the public on July 10, 2019.

Iowa State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Iowa

The Iowa State Capitol, commonly called the Iowa Statehouse, is in Iowa's capital city, Des Moines. As the seat of the Iowa General Assembly, the building houses the Iowa Senate, Iowa House of Representatives, the Office of the Governor, and the Offices of the Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. The building also includes a chamber for the Iowa Supreme Court, although court activities usually take place in the neighboring Iowa Supreme Court building. The building was constructed between 1871 and 1886, and is the only five-domed capitol in the country.

<i>The Apotheosis of Washington</i>

The Apotheosis of Washington is the fresco painted by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865 and visible through the oculus of the dome in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. The fresco is suspended 180 feet (55 m) above the rotunda floor and covers an area of 4,664 square feet (433.3 m2). The figures painted are up to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall and are visible from the floor below. The dome was completed in 1863, and Brumidi painted it over the course of 11 months at the end of the Civil War. He was paid $40,000 for the fresco.

Washington State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Washington

The Washington State Capitol or Legislative Building in Olympia is the home of the government of the state of Washington. It contains chambers for the Washington State Legislature and offices for the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and treasurer and is part of a campus consisting of several buildings. Buildings for the Washington Supreme Court, executive agencies and the Washington Governor's Mansion are part of the capitol campus.

Utah State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Utah

The Utah State Capitol is the house of government for the U.S. state of Utah. The building houses the chambers and offices of the Utah State Legislature, the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, the State Auditor and their staffs. The capitol is the main building of the Utah State Capitol Complex, which is located on Capitol Hill, overlooking downtown Salt Lake City.

Missouri State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Missouri

The Missouri State Capitol is the building that houses the Missouri General Assembly and executive branch of the government of the U.S. state of Missouri. Located in Jefferson City at 201 West Capitol Avenue, it is the third capitol in the city after the other two were demolished when they were damaged in fires. The domed building, designed by the New York City architectural firm of Tracy and Swartwout, was completed in 1917.

Idaho State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Idaho

The Idaho State Capitol in Boise is the home of the government of the U.S. state of Idaho. Although Lewiston briefly served as Idaho's capital from the formation of Idaho Territory in 1863, the territorial legislature moved it to Boise on December 24, 1864.

Oregon State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Oregon

The Oregon State Capitol is the building housing the state legislature and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and treasurer of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is located in the state capital, Salem. Constructed from 1936 to 1938 and expanded in 1977, the current building is the third to house the Oregon state government in Salem. The first two capitols in Salem were destroyed by fire, one in 1855 and the other in 1935.

Mississippi State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of Mississippi

The Mississippi State Capitol or the “New Capitol,” has been the seat of the state’s government since it succeeded the old statehouse in 1903. Located in Jackson, it was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 1986, a National Historic Landmark in 2016 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

North Carolina State Capitol State capitol building of the U.S. state of North Carolina

The North Carolina State Capitol is the former seat of the legislature of the U.S. state of North Carolina which housed all of the state's government until 1888. The Supreme Court and State Library moved into a separate building in 1888, and the General Assembly moved into the State Legislative Building in 1963. Today, the governor and their immediate staff occupy offices on the first floor of the Capitol.

United States Capitol Visitor Center Underground visitors center in Washington D.C.

The United States Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) is a large underground addition to the United States Capitol complex which serves as a gathering point for up to 4,000 tourists and an expansion space for the US Congress. It is located below the East Front of the Capitol and its plaza, between the Capitol building and 1st Street East. The complex contains 580,000 square feet (54,000 m2) of space below ground on three floors. The overall project's budget was $621 million.

United States Capitol rotunda Component of United States Capitol

The United States Capitol rotunda is the central rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., built 1818–1824. It is located below the Capitol dome, built 1857–1866; the later construction also extended the height of the rotunda walls. It is the tallest part of the Capitol and has been described as its "symbolic and physical heart".

United States Capitol crypt

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.

Hall of Columns

The Hall of Columns is a more than 100-foot-long (30 m) hallway lined with twenty-eight fluted columns in the south wing extension of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It is also the gallery for eighteen statues of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

References

Footnotes

  1. "United States Capitol". Building Big Databank. Boston: WGBH-TV via PBS.
  2. 1 2 "Capitol Dome". Architect of the Capitol.
  3. 1 2 3 Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2020). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved September 22, 2020. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  4. 1 2 "Capitol's historic dome set for 2-year renovation". Winston-Salem Journal . Associated Press. December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  5. "Guide to the Janes, Fowler, Kirtland & Co. Records, 1859–1863". Cornell Library. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  6. Reed (2005) , p. 5.
  7. Allen (2001) , p. 21.
  8. Allen (2001) , p. 145.
  9. Allen (2001) , p. 146.
  10. Allen (2001) , p. 225.
  11. The Capitol Dome, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
  12. Allen (2001) , p. 226.
  13. Allen (2001) , p. 227.
  14. Allen (2001) , p. 230.
  15. Allen (2001) , p. 233.
  16. Reed (2005) , p. 31.
  17. Allen (2001) , pp. 338–340.
  18. "Capitol Illumination | Architect of the Capitol". www.aoc.gov. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  19. Neibauer, Michael (January 31, 2013). "U.S. Capitol Dome Restoration Kicks Off With Contractor Search". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  20. Ruane, Michael E. (November 18, 2014). "Capitol scaffolding finished: Dome wrapped in 52 miles of metal, repairs and repainting can start". The Washington Post .
  21. "U.S. Capitol Dome Restoration Project". aoc.gov.

Works cited

Coordinates: 38°53′24″N77°0′32.4″W / 38.89000°N 77.009000°W / 38.89000; -77.009000