The seat of power in the US is one name that Capitol Hill is referred to often, but many do not know the history of this building. It’s where laws are made and passed, which greatly affects all US citizens. This building has gone through many evolutions over the course of history.
The building was finished in the year 1800, but has been expanded and refurbished many times. The Capitol is designed with cast iron, therefore making it more susceptible to damage from the elements. Currently, the building is being restored in a three year project that will see the structure looking better than ever.
Congress itself was established in 1789 in New York when the constitution was ratified. When the Residence Act was brought in and the capitol was established, the building was set to be constructed near the banks of the Potomac. This was a point of contention at the time, as some felt that the building should be placed elsewhere such as Kingston, New York or Germantown, Pennsylvania.
A break in the debate came when James Madison, the Virginia representative and Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury came together at a dinner party to arrange a deal. The compromise placed the seat of power at the Potomac and in return, the Civil War debts were taken on by the Federal Government. Before the government came into power in the area, the site was subject to two states’ laws, with the Maryland laws controlling the east side and the Virginia laws applying in the west.
The construction of the building was helped along by George Washington, as he pushed many of the necessary plans through. This was much to the chagrin of those who hoped to keep the capitol l in Philadelphia, as they were optimistic that the plans would eventually fall through. The plans tied in perfectly with those laid by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who was in charge of creating the plan of the city.
Once the building was opened, it was used for religious services on Sundays, though this is no longer the case. During the War of 1812 the building was partly burned by British soldiers as they sought to weaken the fortitude of the colonists. This was in the latter part of the war and eventually a treaty was reached after both sides realized that they had nothing to gain from the continuing stalemate.
By the year 1850, it became clear that the building was simply not big enough to accommodate the influx of visitors. To rectify this, plans for expansion were made, which doubled the size of the structure and also added the iconic dome to the top. This continued all the way until 1863 and Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated in front of a semi complete building during this time.
Through the following years, the building was improved upon and expanded by architects and construction teams to become the structure that we know today. If you want to visit this building, see the interior and also learn more about its history, then you can do so on a variety of tours, including the DC in a Day tour.