The Capitol Dome

2017 Dome 54.1

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13 Dome had on me throughout the Architect of the Capitol vetting process: In traveling from New York to these interviews, I rode Amtrak to Union Station, usually arriving in late evening. Each time I arrived and walked southward, out through the terminal's grand arcade, I caught my breath at the sight of the Capitol Dome glowing against the darkness. The image of that dome is etched in my mind, and every time I see it my reaction is the same. I believe it is more than architectural form and pro- portion that evokes this reaction. The Capitol is so much more than an impressive, stately building. To me, it is the symbolic anchor of our democracy. In the year 2000, the 106th Congress authorized the publication of History of the United States Capitol: A Chronicle of Design, Construction, and Politics. William C. Allen, the Architect of the Capitol's histo- rian, exhaustively researched this volume over a num- ber of years, completing it during my term as the 10th Architect of the Capitol. The foreward I wrote in Bill's book still rings true: In reading about the history of the Capitol I am struck by the fact that for more than 200 years it has been a work in progress. Construction of the building that George Washington had approved was begun in 1793 but was soon altered by an architectural metamorphosis dictated by chang- ing circumstance, fashion, and fortune. Further- more, as the nation grew so did the Congress and the Capitol. Change and growth seem to be the threads that bind the Capitol's history together. 1 Bill Allen's volume has been a welcomed resource to me as we mark the successful completion of a monumental undertaking by the office of the Architect of the Capitol: the total restoration of the Capitol Dome. This multi-decade project was conceived and executed over the course of a quarter of a century, through the terms of the Ninth, 10th, and 11th Architects of the Capitol. The project exemplifies this legislative branch agency's commitment to excellence in stewardship and preservation over time. As the 10th Architect of the Capitol, I offer here a personalized overview of the design evolution and res- toration of the Capitol Dome in its several incarnations over the course of two-and-one-quarter centuries of history, and the stewardship efforts undertaken by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol over time. HISToRICAl BACkGRounD At noon on 2 December 1863, at the height of the Civil War that threatened to tear apart our 87-year-old nation, the fifth and final section of the magnificent 19'6" tall Statue of Freedom was raised to the top of the dome of the Capitol and bolted into place. "A battery of artillery at the Capitol fire(d) a salute of thirty-five rounds (one for each state) as soon as the head was put into place. A response from the forts around Washington…" followed. Thomas Ustick Walter, the Fourth Architect of the Capitol, wrote to his wife: "There was an immense crowd to witness the operation, and everything was done with propriety and dignity. I have had thousands of congratulations on this great event." 2 The casting of the bronze statue in the foundry of Clark Mills is itself historically important because of the significant contributions made by Philip Reid, an enslaved foundry laborer in June 1860 when the casting Fig. 1. The Maxwell House Coffee can with 10 lbs. of rust was produced as evidence before the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee (1998). SEE NOTES FOR IMAGE CREDIT S. THE CAPITOL DOME

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