Little Bits of History

Capitol Building

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 18, 2010

Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

September 18, 1793: George Washington lays the cornerstone for the Capitol Building. In 1790, Congress passed the “Residence Act” which provided for a permanent site for the seat of the national government to be located on the Potomac River by 1800. The land was ceded by Maryland. Pierre Charles L’Enfant was hired to plan the new city.

L’Enfant was also to plan the actual Capitol Building but he refused to produce any architectural plans, saying that he kept the plans in his head. He was dismissed in 1792 and a competition was held for any who wished to submit drawings for the new building. Seventeen plans were submitted, but none were satisfactory. Dr. William Thorton, living in the British West Indies asked for permission to submit plans even though he was past the due date.

Thorton’s plan called for a three sectioned building. The middle section would be topped by a low dome and there would be rectangular wings on the north and south that would house the Senate and the House of Representatives. The plan was accepted on April 5, 1793 with formal approval from President Washington coming on July 25.

With due pomp and circumstance, the cornerstone was laid. The building site was in a wilderness area and it was difficult to get both the sandstone and the laborers to the area. By 1796, all construction was centered on the north wing so that it would be ready for occupancy by the 1800 deadline. Congress, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the District of Columbia court moved in towards the end of 1800 even though many of the third floor rooms were not complete. The building was completed in 1829 – until it was decided to extend it.

“A building is not something you finish. A building is something you start.” – Stewart Brand

“When we build, let us think that we build forever.” – John Ruskin

“Architecture aims at Eternity,” – Christopher Wren

“If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture.” – Oscar Wilde

Also on this day, in 1837 Tiffany & Co. opened for business.

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