Located in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol is also known as Capitol Hill. Although this landmark is primarily used by our nation’s Congress, visitors are allowed to explore the grounds to gain a better understanding of our nation’s history and government. More Things to Do in Washington, DC


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President George Washington initiated construction of the U.S. Capitol when he laid a cornerstone on September 18, 1973. To celebrate what was going to be the nation’s new landmark, Washington and a group of volunteers marched across D.C. playing music and cheering. There was even a variety of activities and a barbeque to celebrate the new building.

Although construction began in the fall of 1973, it took a long time until the building was complete. Although architect Stephen Hallet initiated the project along with President Washington, many other architects directed construction. These architects include George Hadfield, James Hoban, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

By 1800, the Senate’s wing was complete. Eleven years later, the House of Representatives’ wing was complete, and the Senate’s wing was renovated. But, in 1814, British troops fighting during the War of 1812 set the Capitol on fire, as well as many other historic buildings in D.C.

While the fire did a lot of damage to the Capitol, the Capitol was not completely destroyed because a rainstorm ultimately put the fire out. In 1815, Latrobe began redesigning the Capitol. In 1818, architect Charles Bulfinch replaced Latrobe. Although Bulfinch made a few modifications to the original design plan, most of Latrobe’s visions were implemented.

Bulfinch finished the new Capitol building in 1826. But, it quickly became apparent the building would need to be redesigned yet again. This time, the Capitol needed to be larger. Since the original Capitol was built in 1793, the number of official union states had grown exponentially.

So, with Senator Jefferson Davis’ construction bill in 1850, President Millard Fillmore hired Thomas U. Walter to design and construct larger wings on the north and south of the building. The new Capitol was finished in just shy of twenty years.

Following a historic pattern, the Capitol needed to expand, once again, in 1897, and even throughout the recent late 20th century. Today, the Capitol is often viewed as an entire complex that houses more than 12 government buildings.

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Of the 12 buildings in the Capitol complex, visitors are allowed to explore the main Capitol building, which houses Congress, and the Capitol Visitor Center. Inside the Capitol Visitor Center, visitors can tour the Exhibition Hall. The Exhibition Hall houses a variety of special displays, which tell the story of our nation’s legislative branch and the U.S. Capitol. For an updated list about the exhibitions displayed at the Exhibition Hall, head over to the Capitol’s official website.

Congress and the Progressive Era Part 2 tells the history of our nation from the 1890s to the 1920s. This period of time is often regarded as the Progressive Era. During the Progressive Era, the United States was faced with many internal and international conflicts. This helped our Congress reexamine and reshape how our government should play a role in things, such as the environment, on a national and global spectrum. Throughout this exhibit, visitors will be able to explore every dimension of the Progressive Era, such as how Congress played a role in our country’s exploration and the Panama Canal. Congress and the Progressive Era Part 2 will be on display through March 2017.

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3.Educational Opportunities

Educational Opportunities
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The U.S. Capitol offers a variety of educational opportunities for everyone. The available educational opportunities are divided among students, teachers, and families. Students have access to a variety of online resources, such as activities and videos, which will prepare them for their class visit to the U.S. Capitol, or help them within the classroom.

Teachers can access any of the online and on-site educational resources that students can. In addition to those resources, teachers can use any of the Capitol’s free online lesson plans. Finally, teachers are encouraged to sign their classes up for an in-depth school field trip.

Many of the online resources, such as activities, available to families and general visitors are the same online resources available to students. General visitors are also encouraged to sign up for a special program or encounter with one of our nation’s government representatives. If visitors want to get the most out of their visit to D.C. and the U.S. Capitol, then they should sign up for one of the specialized guided tours.

For more information about any of the educational opportunities offered at the Capitol, visit the Capitol’s official website, or contact them during their hours of operation.

U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, United States Capitol, Washington, DC 20510, Phone: 202-226-8000

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U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

  • History, Photo: Courtesy of W.Scott McGill - Fotolia.com
  • Attractions, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
  • Educational Opportunities, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of vlad_g - Fotolia.com