Place
United States Capitol
meeting place of the United States Congress
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United States Capitol
meeting place of the United States Congress

East Capitol St NE & First St SE
Washington, District Of Columbia
United States

Sr. Contributor

The history of the U.S. Capitol is like an HGTV reality show where the homeowners spend your money to keep renovating their place.

The Capitol was supposed to be the crowning achievement of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the person designing the capital's layout. Only he just wouldn't pull the trigger. The Founding Fathers begged for a physical plan to approve while L'Enfant bided for more and more time claiming the idea just needed to cook a little more in the old noodle. George Washington straight up fired him and team Founding Fathers picked a design from physician William Thornton who took up the project as a hobby. 

Between construction and constant renovation, the people of these United States have so far spent $133 million to keep up the place where our Senate and House of Representatives meet to bicker and get nothing done. And that figure doesn't even account for inflation, so you may as well add a zero to get a more realistic idea for the cost to taxpayers. It's not like the renovations are all unnecessary, though. For instance, there was a major overhaul of the entire structure just after its first completion when the British stormed into Washington DC and set fire to the Capitol and every other important public building. The damage was immense, but not total thanks to DC's fine tradition of crappy weather.

The show stopping dome we see today is a replacement. The rough draft was a wood version covered in copper. A couple decades and several renovations enlarging the Capitol left every politician in Washington circa the 1850s agreeing that the dome looked laughably out of place, small in comparison to the rest of the building. The nation was suddenly in the market for a dome job when plans for a new take on the idea by architect Thomas Walter based on Michelangelo's dome for Saint Peter's Basilica caught everyone's collective eye. Walter was already doing work on the wings of the building, so both houses of Congress and President Franklin Pierce moved quickly to add a new dome to the workload. Construction was hampered by the Civil War, but Abraham Lincoln insisted work on the dome continue to show everyone, north and south, that the USA can't stop won't stop.

The cake topper adorning the tippy-top of the dome is an allegory of freedom, represented by a dour looking woman with a sick hat. She was originally to wear a liberty cap (a hat worn by free men in ancient Greece and Rome similar to what the mice in Disney's Cinderella cartoon and the Smurfs wear on their noggin), but Secretary of War and future President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis wasn't down with freedom for slaves. Boo hiss, Davis. So, to appease that one squeaky, hateful wheel, the powers that be quashed the liberty cap idea, opting rather for a Roman centurion's helmet.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about United States Capitol

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home 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.

The original building was completed in 1800 and was subsequently expanded, particularly with the addition of the massive dome, and expanded chambers for the bicameral legislature, the House of Representatives in the south wing and the Senate in the north wing. Like the principal buildings of the executive and judicial branches, the Capitol is built in a distinctive neoclassical style and has a white exterior. Both its east and west elevations are formally referred to as fronts, though only the east front was intended for the reception of visitors and dignitaries.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about United States Capitol.