The Capitol Dome--regular editions

Summer 2014

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7 L ate winter and early spring brought a round of lectures relating to African American History Month and the War of 1812 anniversaries happening this year. On February 26, Historian of the House of Representatives Matthew Wasniewski delivered the annual African American History Month Lecture; he spoke about Rep. William Dawson of Illinois, who was the first African American to chair a House committee. Wasniewski noted that Dawson felt that change would come from within the system, so he worked to build coalitions and gain seniority in Congress during his nearly thirty years in office (from 1943 until his death in 1970). In this approach, Dawson's career serves as a counterpoint to those of Rep. Oscar DePriest (IL) and Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (NY), who both tended toward more visible, confron- tational tactics to effect change. The Illinois State Society of Washington, DC and the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives co-hosted this lecture with USCHS. February also saw the first in a series of occasional lec- tures regarding the War of 1812 and the events in Washing- ton, DC in 1814, when many of the military and official build- ings burned during the British campaign in the Chesapeake. On February 19, Richard Chenoweth, an architect and designer, discussed his recent work in what he calls "foren- sic architecture." Chenoweth used his previous research on Thomas Jefferson's design preferences to inform a recon- struction of how the Capitol, especially the House chamber, looked in the months prior to its August 1814 destruction. He relied on the few extant historic drawings and plans, remnants in the current Capitol, and many letters between those involved, including Jefferson and Benjamin Latrobe. Examples of Chenoweth's reconstructions are available on his website, On March 26, Mark Ozer returned to the USCHS lunch- room with his latest book, Washington, D.C. and the War of 1812: Rising from the Ashes. Ozer walked the audience through the context of the 1814 fires, from the causes of the war to the Chesapeake campaign, and then discussed ele- ments of the process of rebuilding. Stephen Hansen drew the series back to architectural reconstruction. He showed attendees how he reconstructed the exteriors of Congress' two postwar temporary homes, Blodgett's Hotel and the Brick Capitol. The presentation included the images and written accounts from which Hansen sourced his drawings and animations. His talk concluded with an analysis and reconstruction of the John Mason House on what is now Theodore Roosevelt Island. The series of talks on the War on 1812 and events in Washington during 1814 continued into the summer. The next issue of The Capitol Dome will include updates; visit to sign up for our email list and receive notices about upcoming talks. C - SPAN has aired Chenoweth's talk; go to and search for "Richard Chenoweth" to find it. Spring Lectures Matthew Wasniewski Ozer signs a copy of his book. Attendees examine some of the materials that Chenoweth brought to illustrate his work. Stephen Hansen

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