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Tour of the U.S. Capitol


The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Not only is it a monument to democracy, but it is also the workplace of the legislative branch of government and makes important decisions that affect not only the United States but often the world.

As I walked through the monuments and memorials in DC, the dome of the Capitol appeared in many views. I just knew I had to take a tour and experience it from the inside out. I also wanted to learn more about the iconic building itself.

View of the Capitol from the North
If you have time and are in Washington, D.C., there is no reason not to visit, as the tour is completely free.

Difference between the Capitol and the Capital
Capitol Visitor Center
A brief history
The Crypt
The National Statuary Hall
The Old Supreme Court Chambers
Walking down the corridor
The difference between the Capitol and the capital
In short, the capital is the main city where the government offices are located. The Capitol is the seat of government. As with government buildings, the Capitol is always capitalized.

This is also true for each state. So, for example, the capital of Kansas is Topeka, where their capitol building is located. That was a great trip, too.

It is believed that the word Capitol comes from the association with the Roman Capitoline, the most important of the seven Roman hills that housed the Temple of Jupiter Optimus.

Formerly known as Jankin Hill, Capitol Hill was given its current name by Thomas Jefferson in 1793.

Before you begin your tour, you can’t help but admire the building with your own eyes as you walk up Capitol Hill. For many of you, like me, you may have only seen it before in movies, on television, or more and more recently in the news.

The Capitol and Reflections
Its design is unmistakable and draws design inspiration from a mix of buildings. The original architectural architect, William Thornton, was inspired by the actual building on the east side of the Louvre in Paris, as well as the central dome area of the Pantheon in Paris.

Over the years it has been under construction and the builders and designers kept changing, so it was modified many times and the result is what you see today.

Capitol Visitor Center
When you look at the Capitol from the outside, you see a historic building built more than 200 years ago, but with the Visitor Center at your feet.

U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
The tour entrance is located on the ground floor of a relatively new arts district. Step inside and you’ll enter a huge lobby where tickets are checked.

A short history
Before you leave the Visitor Center and begin your walking tour, you can watch a 15-minute video that shows a brief history of the Capitol, including its rise and fall and its importance.

It’s a great introduction before you enter, and it helps fill in any gaps you may have in your knowledge of the country’s history and the way the government operates here.

Construction of the building began on September 18, 1783. In fact, George Washington laid the cornerstone of the foundation at the southeast corner.

Construction was slow, with the original Senate Wing completed in 1800 and the House of Representatives Wing in 1814. However, this was also the time of the War of 1812, when the British marched into Washington, D.C. and set fire to the Capitol (as well as the White House and other important buildings) in 1814.

Dome Features
A rainstorm at the time saved the building from total destruction, and construction began again. completed in 1826, it was never enough because as the states joined the Union, their delegates needed additional space, more than doubling since the 1700s.

By 1850, the number of delegates to Congress had increased from 69 to 233. The number of state senators increased from 30 to 62. This required a major expansion of the building and the addition of a new dome. If you have ever seen the movie “Lincoln,” it does correctly portray the dome as it was still being built during the Civil War.

From the front of the Capitol
By 1868, the building was finally completed and the grounds could be finished. Of course, the number of people working at Capitol only continued to grow, and Capitol had to provide them with accommodations. The Library of Congress moved into its own space in 1897, and later, in 1935, the Supreme Court moved into its own building.

During the tour, you will see and experience some of these timelines first hand. Here are the highlights, experiences and learnings I gained.

The Rotunda
In the middle of the tour, you’ll enter the Rotunda and upon entering, you’ll see its impressive sights. In the Rotunda, you will learn about the history and founding of the country, not only with your own eyes, but also with the help of a knowledgeable guide.

Inside the Dome
A circular area with walls 15 meters (48 feet) high, stretching to the dome, with a selection of historically significant paintings on the walls.

Two that caught my attention were John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence and John Chapman’s Baptism of Pocahontas.

John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence
John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence
John Chapman’s Baptism by Pocahontas
John Chapman The Baptism of Pocahontas
Here you will also find six other paintings depicting important historical events, from “Columbus’ Landing” to “General George Washington’s Resignation”.

Here you will learn how George Washington was respected not only by the American people, but also by the military. If he had wanted to, he could have made himself king, and the people would probably have accepted his role. But, in the name of democracy, he resigned his office to serve the people as a civilian.

If you look directly at the dome, you will see the mural painted near its completion: “The Apotheosis of Washington. This depicts George Washington in a completely different way. More like a god.

The Apotheosis of Washington
In the center of the circular room, on the floor, directly below the center of the dome, there is a marker. They say this is the center of Washington, DC. If you look back at the original plan of the city, the streets and avenues were named from this central point. But the actual name “geographic center of DC” belongs somewhere around 4th Street NW, L Street NW, and New York avenue NW.

Center of the Rotunda
This site also marks the place where many important people were buried after their deaths. From presidents, to important historical figures like Rosa Parks, and many unnamed soldiers.

The Crypt
The first place you visit is the crypt, which is located directly below the rotunda. It is therefore, again, circular.

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