History of the United States

History of the United States Capitol

Begun in 1793, the United States Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored. The Capitol that we see today is the result

of several major periods of construction; it stands as a monument to the ingenuity, determination, and skill of the American people.

Before 1791, the federal government had no permanental site. The early Congresses met in eight different cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore,

Lancaster, York, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, and New York City. As you can see there was a need of a permanent seat of government

and a capital.

So Pierre Charles L'Enfant was given the order to construct the capital and to select a site for the 'Congress House' in 1791. He

announced a competition for design for Capitol which William Thornton won.

In 1793 President Washington laid the cornerstone. Finally, in 1800 the Congress moves from Philadelphia and in 1801 the Supreme

Court first meets in the Capitol. But already in 1814 the Capitol was burnt by British troops; between 1815 and 1817 it was restored again

by Latrobe. 1829 the building was completed but soon, in 1851, extended by Thomas U. Walter, while the library was burned by fire in the

same year.

In 1861 the work on extensions suspended for 11 1/2 months because of the Civil War, during that period of time the Capitol was used as

a Union hospital. The Statue of Freedom was into place atop dome few years later, in 1863. Throughout the buildings and grounds electric

lightning was installed between 1890 and 1900.

In 1949 until 1951 the house and the Senate chambers were redesigned and restored, also restored was the Statue of Freedom, but in the

year 1993. Today, the Capitol covers a ground area of about 4 acres and contains approximately 540 rooms. From the basement floor to

the top of the dome you have to climb 365 steps.

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