The Capitol Dome

Fall 2014

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THE CAPITOL DOME 39 1. Jefferson to Latrobe, Oct. 10, 1809, in The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, ed. John C. Van Horne and Lee W. Formwalt, 3 vols. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986), 2:776-77. Jefferson wrote: "I think that the work (the Capitol) when finished will be a durable and honorable monument of our infant republic, and will bear favorable comparison with the remains of the same kind of the ancient republics of Greece & Rome." 2. Latrobe to Jefferson, Aug. 13, 1807, ibid., 2:463-65. 3. An idea proposed in James Sterling Young, e Washington Community, 1800-1828 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966). 4. Latrobe to Jefferson, Oct. 29, 1806, Van Horne, ed., Latrobe Correspondence, 2:277-81. 5. Latrobe, A Private Letter to the Individual Members of Congress, On the Subject of e Public Buildings of the United States at Washington, Nov. 28, 1806, ibid., 2:296- 316. 6. Latrobe to Jefferson, May 21, 1807, ibid., 2:427-29. 7. Latrobe, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., Section of south wing; watercolor, ink, wash and graphite drawing, ADE-UNIT 2462, no. 14, "North-South Section," Benjamin Henry Latrobe Archive, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 8. Synopsis of this discussion from William C. Allen, History of the United States Capitol: A Chronicle of Design, Construction, and Politics (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2001) p. 62. 9. Jefferson to Maria Cosway, Oct. 12, 1786, ed. Julian P. Boyd et al., The Papers of Thomas Jef ferson, 40 vols. to date (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950–), 10:443-55. 10. Latrobe to Jefferson, Oct. 29, 1806, Van Horne, ed., Latrobe Correspondence, 2:277-81. 11. Jefferson to Latrobe, Sept. 8, 1805, ibid., 2:140. 12. National Intelligencer, Nov. 22, 1807. 13. John H. B. Latrobe, "e Capitol at Washington at the Beginning of the Present Century," An Address by John H. B. Latrobe Before the American Institute of Architects (Baltimore: William K. Boyle, 1881). 14. Latrobe, Private Letter to Congress (Nov. 28, 1806), Van Horne, ed., Latrobe Correspondence, 2:296-316. Notes C o n c l u s i o n I believe the pre-fire first Hall of the House of Representatives's great beauty derived from its proportional excellence, its simplicity of materials, and its overall restraint. Latrobe as well as others remarked that the streaming light from above through the skylit roof was striking and beautiful. Latrobe describes the work of his two chief stone carvers Giovanni Andrei (specializing in flora) and Giuseppe Franzoni (specializing in figures) as nothing less than brilliant. Certainly the room had flaws. It leaked; water condensed on the skylights; it had reverberation problems; it needed to be expanded before it was even complete. Was Latrobe's method of lighting the chamber a better solution? We don't know for sure, but through computer imaging I have tested certain results at certain levels. is first version of the Hall of Representatives was acclaimed for its grandeur and beauty. Latrobe was rehired by Madison in 1815 to rebuildthe burned Capitol and in the second design, the exterior walls re - mained virtually the same but the internal chamber changed radically. George Hadfield, an architect of the Capitol in the 1790s (and Maria Cosway's brother), lauded the first House chamber for its republican simplicity and preferred it over thesecond one, which was finished in 1819. When the first Hall of the House of Representatives ultimately became a monumental ruin in August 1814, it passed from America's first world-class building into the dreamlike realm worthy of a Greek ruin. rough computer imaging, it can now be seen again. RICHARD CHENOWETH, AIA, is a nationally recognized architect and artist with a deep interest in transit architecture, residential architecture, and historical resources. He received two fellowships from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society to assist his ongoing research into the Capitol as it was before it was burned in the War of 1812.

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