The Capitol Building and Dome

From 1793 until today, the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. has been a topic of interest—and has been the subject of several Government publications! The Capitol dome is soon to be covered with scaffolding for two years for a restoration project, so let’s try to uncover some Capitol treasures before that happens.

Proposed scaffolding for Capitol dome restoration Architect of the Capitol

Proposed scaffolding for Capitol dome restoration
Architect of the Capitol

History of the Capitol

Representative Rufus Choate in 1833 came up with this idea: “We have built no national temples but the Capitol; we consult no common oracle but the Constitution.” Do you agree? You’ll find that quote as well as plenty more information about the building in the book History of the United States Capitol: A Chronicle of Design, Construction, and Politics, also known as S. Doc. 106-29 and part of the Congressional Committee Materials collection on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). If you’re a more down to earth person and want details on the cost of building the Capitol, check out Chapter 10 of H. Doc. 108-240, Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol , also available on FDsys.

Capitol dome/Dome restoration

The Capitol dome is part of what makes it one of the most recognizable buildings in the country—but did you know it is not the first dome that was on the building? The current dome was designed by Thomas U. Walter and built over 150 years ago, from 1855-1866. The first dome was designed by Charles Bulfinch and finished in 1824. The last time the dome was restored was 1959-1960, and the cast iron now has more than 1,000 cracks, so it’s about to get restored in a two-year project.

Capitol in 1834 with Bulfinch dome Library of Congress (>

Capitol in 1834 with Bulfinch dome
Library of Congress

Capitol artwork

What about inside the building? The National Statuary Hall Collection has two statues from every U.S. state, and H.R. 5711 was introduced in the 111th Congress (2010) to allow U.S. territories to furnish statues for the hall too. Illinois was the first state to send a statue of a woman —educator and reformer Frances E. Willard’s statue was installed in 1905.

Restoring the Dome Architect of the Capitol

Restoring the Dome
Architect of the Capitol

To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi

brumidi-to-make-beautiful-the-capitolThe Capitol also contains striking artwork by Constantino Brumidi. This Italian artist came to the United States when he was almost fifty years old. Brumidi embraced American history and the United States, signing himself “C. Brumidi Artist Citizen of the U.S.” on one of his Capitol frescoes. Read more about Brumidi and his work in To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi, Constantino Brumidi: Artist of the Capitol, or at the Architect of the Capitol’s Web site.

North Brumidi Corridor Architect of the Capitol

North Brumidi Corridor
Architect of the Capitol

Fun facts and more

S.R. 7, 40th Congress, 1867 Library of Congress

S.R. 7, 40th Congress, 1867
Library of Congress

For those who like historical tidbits (and cider), check out joint resolution S.R. 7 from 1867 prohibiting alcoholic beverages in the Capitol . . . or the 2011 hearing on “Nuclear Energy Risk Management” before a House committee which says the granite of the Capitol building means it has “some of the highest radiation levels in all of the United States, about 85 millirem per year.” (But don’t worry, cross-examination reveals that that level is just “normal radiation exposures from natural background.”) And finally, for even more detail, historical facts, and great images, don’t forget to check out the fabulous Web site of the Architect of the Capitol – they are experts on this fascinating building!


In addition to clicking on the links in the article above to find the publications, you may find these publications from the following:

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP)

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy these print publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at

Order by Phone: You may also order print editions by calling GPO’s  Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

About the author: Lara Otis is an Outreach Librarian for the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) Division.

One Response to The Capitol Building and Dome

  1. The domes are architectural works which since ancient times have always aroused great admiration and give great importance to the complexity of the architectural buildings of this type. One of the most famous is the dome by Brunelleschi in Florence, this is still the largest masonry dome ever built and provides coverage to cruise the most important cathedral of Florence in Italy. Even today, many experts study its structure to understand the secrets of this fantastic building.


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