The United States Capitol reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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United States Capitol

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The United States Capitol is the building which serves as home for the legislative branch of the United States government. It is located atop Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The building is characterized by a central dome (inspired by St. Peter's in Rome) and two wings — one for each branch of Congress. The north wing is home of the Senate, the south wing is home of the House of Representatives.

The current building is the third to serve as the US capitol, after Federal Hall in New York (17891790) and Congress Hall in Philadelphia (1790–1800).

Construction of the current Capitol building began in 1793. The Senate wing was completed in 1800, while the House wing was completed in 1811. The Capitol building held its first session of Congress on November 17, 1800. Shortly after completion, it was partially burned by the British during the War of 1812. Reconstruction began in 1815, and was completed by 1830. The architect Benjamin Latrobe is principally connected with the original construction and many innovative interior features.

The Capitol when first occupied by Congress, 1800Enlarge

The Capitol when first occupied by Congress, 1800

The building was expanded dramatically in the 1850s. Thomas U. Walter was responsible for the wing extensions and the "wedding cake" cast-iron dome. In 1863 Freedom, a colossal statue, was added to the top of the dome.

When the dome of the Capitol was finally completed, but to a significantly enlarged design than had initially been planned, its massive visual weight overpowered the proportions of the columns of the East Portico, built in 1828. An extended addition to the Capitol was constructed in 1958, but the historic Corinthian columns were rendered homeless, until landcape designer Russell Page created a suitable setting for them in a large meadow at the National Arboretum, where they are combined with a relecting pool in an ensemble that reminds some visitors disconcertingly of Persepolis.

The Capitol houses a variety of works of art, including the National Statuary Hall Collection, which is comprised of statues donated by the fifty states to honor persons notable in their histories.

Closeup of the capitol buildingEnlarge

Closeup of the capitol building

On July 24, 1998, Russell Eugene Weston Jr burst into the Capitol and opened fire killing two police officers. He was later ruled to be incompetent to stand trial.

Currently a multimillion dollar subterranean visitors center is being constructed. Work began in 2001 and it is expected to be completed in 2005.

The Capitol is on the back of the U.S. $50 bill.

See also

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