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. Photo: W.Scott McGill/Fotolia
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