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Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

United States Capitol

 

—East Front —

 
United States Capitol Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 13, 2010
1. United States Capitol Marker
Inscription.
Front:
One of the icons of world architecture, the U.S. Capitol has been the meeting place of Congress since 1800. President George Washington laid the cornerstone on September 18, 1793. While under construction, the the building was damaged by British troops during the War of 1812 and subsequently restored. The Capitol was enlarged and the present cast-iron dome built in the 1850s and 1860s. Further additions included the Olmstead terraces on the west front in the 1880s and the east front extension in the 1950s. The most recent addition is the underground Capitol Visitor Center.

1. Statue of Freedom. The 19 1/2-foot-tall bronze statue, sculpted by Thomas Crawford in Rome and cast by Clark Foundry in the District of Columbia, was placed on its cast-iron pedestal in 1863. The classical figure wears a helmet with an eagle head and feathers and holds a sheathed sword, shield and victory wreath. The statue was restored in 1993.

2. House Pediment. The Apotheosis of Democracy by Paul Weyland Bartlett was installed in 1916. The central group is Peace Protecting Genius. On the left is a group called The Power of Labor: Agriculture, and on the right is a entitled The Power of Labor: Industry.

3. Center Pediment. Genius of America was originally carved in sandstone
United States Capitol image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
2. United States Capitol
by Luigi Persico in 1828. When the East Front was expanded in 1958-1962, the badly deteriorated figures were replaced by replicas carved in marble. America, at the center holds a shield. She points to Justice, holding scales and a scroll marked "Constitution, 17 September 1787." To the right is the figure of Hope with an anchor.

4. Senate Pediment. The Progress of Civilization by Thomas Crawford was installed in 1863. A figure representing America stands in the center with an eagle by her side. To her left are figures representing America's early days, including a hunter and American Indians. The group on her right, including a soldier, a merchant, a teacher, and a student, represents the march of civilization.

Back:
United States Capitol
Grounds


General Plan for the Improvement of the U.S. Capitol Grounds
by Frederick Law Olmsted, 1874


Following the extension of the Capitol in the 1850s-1860s, the grounds were enlarged in 1872. In 1874 Congress commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted to design landscape improvements, and he soon produced this drawing, which guided the project over the next two decades. He described the plan as "very simple, with the purpose of its perfect subordination in interest to the architectural design of the Capitol." Olmsted's
<i>The Apotheosis of Democracy</i> image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
3. The Apotheosis of Democracy
objective was to provide a dignified "park-like" setting for the Capitol, with groupings of trees and expansive vistas designed to set the Capitol square apart, as an oasis, from the surrounding, developing city. Today the grounds have evolved into an arboretum with hundreds and mature botanical specimens--many of which are rarely seen elsewhere.

1 Granite Lamp Piers & Bronze Fountains
Bay of Fundy granite was used for the massive piers that Olmsted designed to hold bronze gas-burning light fixtures. Electric sparks from copper wires and a remote battery originally ignited the lamps. The piers were constructed in 1875. Olmsted also designed the large granite basins, within which bronze fountains created rainbows by fine water sprays; the effect was continued at night under gas lights. The bronze was cast in 1875 by Janes, Kirtland and Company of New York, the same firm that cast most of the ironwork for the Capitol dome. The lamps, piers, fountains, and basins were restored during the Capitol Visitor Center construction project.

2 The Olmsted Terrace
Constructed in 1884-1892 on the north, west, and south sides of the Capitol, the marble terrace provided a strong visual platform, correcting the illusion that the massive building was about to slide down Capitol Hill. It also added much-needed space for storage, shops, and committee rooms.

3
<i>Genius of America</i> image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
4. Genius of America
Summerhouse

Constructed in 1879-1880, the Summerhouse offered visitors a shaded place to rest, admire views of the Capitol, and have a drink of water. Olmsted's principal assistant, Thomas Wisedell, was the designer. The Summerhouse is a tribute to the bricklayer's craft--constructed of carved and radial brick, creating elaborate architectural features. Nestled in the hillside, the structure features a "grotto" with running water that, along with the central fountains, adds a cooling effect during the summer.
 
Erected 2009.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the National Historic Landmarks marker series.
 
Location. 38° 53.445′ N, 77° 0.379′ W. Marker is in Capitol Hill, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker can be reached from 1st Street, NE south of Constitution Avenue, NE (U.S. 1 Alt.), on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in the Capitol Square East Plaza, on the walkway off 1st Street, north of the entrance to the new, underground, Capitol Visitor Center. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. United States Capitol Grounds (a few steps from this marker); The Old Brick Capitol (within shouting
<i>The Progress of Civilization</i> image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
5. The Progress of Civilization
distance of this marker); From June to December, 1917 (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum (approx. 0.2 miles away); Florida House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Residence of Albert Gallatin (approx. 0.2 miles away); Alva Belmont House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fiery Destruction (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Capitol Hill.
 
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia entry for Dr. William Thornton, first Achitect of the Capitol. (Submitted on January 11, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Surveyor of Public Buildings and second Architect of the Capitol. (Submitted on January 11, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.) 

3. Charles Bulfinch, third Architect of the Capitol. (Submitted on January 11, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
4. Philip Reid and the Statue of Freedom. In 1857, Thomas Crawford (an American sculptor working in Rome) completed his plaster model for the Statue of Freedom. After his death, Clark Mills (another American
United States Capitol Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
6. United States Capitol Marker
sculptor and foundry owner in Bladensburg, Maryland) was hired to cast the model in bronze. When the time came to disassemble the plaster model sections for casting, the Italian craftsman who had earlier assembled them for display purposes outside the Capitol went on strike over a wage dispute. Philip Reid (an enslaved artisan owned by Mills) was then tasked with separating the delicate plaster sections so they could be safely moved to the foundry. He was also given charge over the fires for the foundry's molds and worked with other slaves as the large plaster sections were cast in bronze. During this process in 1862 (some of the darkest days of the Civil War), the institution of slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia. As a result, Reid and the Capitol's previously enslaved African construction workers were all free men when some participated in the Statue of Freedom's installation on the Capitol dome in 1863. (Submitted on February 6, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.) 
 
Additional keywords. Philip Reid.
 
Categories. African AmericansNotable BuildingsPolitics
 
United States Capitol Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 13, 2017
7. United States Capitol Marker
The Statue of Freedom - under renovation, 1993 image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, 1993
8. The Statue of Freedom - under renovation, 1993
The Statue of Freedom - returning to the Capitol dome image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, 1993
9. The Statue of Freedom - returning to the Capitol dome
The Statue of Freedom - <i> E Pluribus Unum</i> image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, February 21, 2010
10. The Statue of Freedom - E Pluribus Unum
The plaster model for the Statue of Freedom image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 30, 2010
11. The plaster model for the Statue of Freedom
on display on the west side of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center.
"<i>E Pluribus Unum</i>" image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 30, 2010
12. "E Pluribus Unum"
a heavenly vision of George Washington (lower middle of photo) on the ceiling of the Capitol dome - beneath the Statue of Freedom.
United States Capitol dome image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 30, 2010
13. United States Capitol dome
viewed through the skylight from "Emancipation Hall" - the heart of the Capitol Visitor Center, so named by Congress in 2007 in remembrance of the enslaved laborers and craftsmen who helped build the U.S. Capitol in the 19th Century.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 14, 2017. This page originally submitted on February 21, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,727 times since then and 27 times this year. Last updated on December 13, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on February 21, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   7. submitted on December 13, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   8, 9, 10. submitted on February 21, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   11, 12, 13. submitted on February 6, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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