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A Survey of the development of the U.S. Capitol
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102591/00001
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Title: A Survey of the development of the U.S. Capitol
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Myers, John
Publisher: John Myers
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
Subjects / Keywords: Architecture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Architecture -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Coordinates: 38.889797 x -77.009312
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UF00102591:00001


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Table of Contents
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Full Text



John Myers
AE 676
Spring, 1977


Early in the planning of Washington, D.C., the commissioners

who were in charge of the project asked hajor Pierre L'Enfant,

who was planning the city, to give them some ideas for a capitol

building. There are no drawings to indicate whether L'Enfant

actually did this, but in any case George Washington and Thomas

Jefferson were both strongly in favor of a competition for the

designs of the Capitol and the White House. The original sketch of

the competition advertisement has been preserved in the U.S. Archives.

The first prise was to be a choice lot in the city, (which was

virtually all forest at the time), to be designated by impartial

judges, and either five hundred dollars or an equivalent medal.

The program read "... the building is to be of brick and it is to

contain the following compartments, to wits

a conference room

these rooms
a lobby or antechamber to the latter to be of full.
a Senate room of 1200 square feet of area

an antechamber and lobby to the latter

twelve rooms of 600 square feet area each for committee rooms
and clerks, to be half the elevation of the former.

Drawings will be expected of the ground plats, elevations of each

front and sections through the building in such directions as may be

necessary to explain the material, structure, and an estimate of the

cubic feet of brickwork composing the whole mass of the wall."

The results of the competition reveal much about the state

of the architectural profession in this country at that time.

Although domestic building had progressed well, monumental

architecture of the kind called for by this competition

was more than the profession could deliver. The only professional

architect to enter the competition was Stephen Hallet, who later

became one of the bigger problems in the early construction of the


Jefferson himself entered the competition anonomously. I do not

know whether he submitted a design for the Capitol, but for the

White House be submitted a copy of the Villa Rotunda of Palladio.

The White House winner was James Hoban, an Irishman who immigrated after

the Revolution and unsuccessfully tried to operate a business in

Philadelphia. Hoban had moved to South Carolina and been more

successful, building the state capitol at Colbumbia. After winning

the competition, Hoban moved to Washington where he remained for the

rest of his life, working on numerous projects including the Capitol.

The competition for the Capitol design was won finally by

Dr. William Thornton. Thornton had been educated as a physician in

England, travelled around Europe spending much time in Paris,

moved to Tortula and finally came to the United States and

settled in Delaware. Although a doctor, Thornton had wide ranging

interests, one of which was steam powered boats. He was associated with

John Fitch's experiments with steamboats. He came into architecture

by way of a plan for the Philadelphia Library which won the

competition. The building was considered one of the finest buildings

in the country while it stood, which was until 1880. Thornton had

angered some of the more serious Philadelphia competitors by saying

that he had not given much thought to architecture, but sat dow~n

with some books for a. few days, then submitted a plan based on the

ionic order which was the rage of the day.2
In the Capitol competition, Thornton was three months late.

He wrote a. letter asking to submit plans late and permission was

granted for a couple of reasons. Because of the rather primitive

state of architecture referred to earlier, none of the plans

which had been submitted originally were satisfactory, and the

"clientan were still searching. Even though some entries were

acceptable solutions, the details and drawing quality were very

poor. Also influencing the decision to let Thornton enter late

was the fact that he had been introduced to George Washington by

the famous painter John Trumbull, whose paintings adorn the Capitol


In the time following the original competition, the only

real architect in the competition, Stephen Hallet, had been

retained by the commissioners to devise a more acceptable plan.

In the original competition, they had liked Kallets style but

thought that hia distribution of parts ", was inconvienent.

He was retained to work directly under the supervision of the

commissioners and was expected to win the second competition.

Meanwhile, 'Ehornton had decided, after discussions with others,

that his drawings could not win, and so after seeing some of

Hallet's work, he completely revised his design. When Thornton's

still unfinished drawings were shown to the President, and to

Jefferson, they were very impressed, as were the commissioners.

Thornton's plan was accepted in March, 1793 and the commissioner



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PiATH S. DesilSn for the Capitol; submitted by James Diamond in the competition of 1792. It is difficultto take seriously a design
with a weathercock of such fantastic proportions. ReproducPd by courtesy of The Maryland Historical Society


PLATE 8. East elevation of Capitol as redesigned ~by William Thornton after his appointment ais commissioner in 1794.
drawing is in th~e Library of Congress

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PLATE 11.. West elevation of Thornton's revised design (1795-1797). Drawing shows the "Temple" which was to surmount the
'circular Conferenci'Room. This "Temple" has been misunderstood as an alternative design for the Do~me. Original is~ in the
Library of Congress

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PLAT.E 10: 1)esign for the Capitol, by Hallet (1793). Original drawing is in the Llbrary of` Congress

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PLATE 9 Plan or the apitol as moifid y ale hrnThrno'sdeig2

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PLUe 14. Plan shot
"History of the

oi Capilol when first occupied by Conpress in 18001. Reproduced from Brown's

began immediately pressing for more information and drawin68

so that the project could begin; they expressed hope that they could

have the foundations in by the latter part of the year.

Thornton got married after the competition, and some sources

say that his wife, an artist, assisted him in the drawing of

the Capitol plans. As the first of the Capitol architects, he

made many friends in Washington. His interest in race horses gave

him something in common with many of the Southerners, and influenced

his getting the commission for the home of John Tayloe, Octagon

House.3 He built Tudor Place in Georgetown, Woodlawn in Alexandria,

and Brentwood in the Federal District. Thornton was later appointed

to the Board of Commissioners and after that was put in charge of the

first JSatent Office due to the broad interests referred to earlier.

Two points of interest in his career at the Patent Office are his

action in the Fulton/Fitch steamboat controversy, and his saving of

the Patent Office during the War of 1812.

When Robert Fulton was claiming credit for developing the

steamboat, Thornton defended the work of John Fitch who he knew,

fromt personal association and involvement, had done the earlier

work. He wrote a pamphlet in 1810 which defended the work

of Fitchr Later in his career, during the War of 1812, when the

British were burhing Washington, Thornton stood in the door of the

Patent Office and chastised the British for their barbarism in the

burning of the building. The British withdrew and left the building

unharmed. Thornton was fortunate in that his work was recognized

while he was living, and on his death many government leaders,

including the President, followed his body to its burial.

Those early days as Capitol architect, however, had not been

at all smooth, largely due to conflicts with Stephen Hallet.

Thornton turned down an opportunity to supervise the Capitol

construction, and the commissioners, who had expressed disappointment

that Hallet had not won the competition, appointed him to study

Thornton's plans and estimate the cost. With the aid of other

losers in the competition, Hallet began objecting to many points

in the plan and eventually caused serious doubts about the

feasibility of executing the design. Structural complaints

were made about some spans being too great, and objectionable

columns under other spans. Eventually Thornton's plan came

through with minor changes, but Hallet and Hoban were appointed

joint supervisors on the project. Hallet continued to attack the

Thornton plan, spurred by the affront of being beaten out by an

amateur. He continued to work on and submit unsolicited plans

of his on, and to make minor changes in the construction without

approval. Hoban was largely absorbed in the supervision of the

White House, which was his design, and Hallet was left unchecked

in changing numerous things. The final straw came when he made

a major foundation change, laying the foundation for an open,

square court. This alteration focused attention on all that he

had done, and the commissioners sharply checked him in a letter.

Hallet resigned, but the commissioners were so angry that they

refused to accept the resignation and fired him instead. An

illustration of the displeasure is Washington's reaction over

Ptun 18. The old Seriate Chamber; Later remodeled for the Supreme Court., Photographled fpolr aIn.old print by L, C. Handy

the foundation changes it is said that when he saw the changes

he expressed his disapproval in a style of such warmth as his

dignity seldom permitted.".l Hallet's major contribution had

been the the idea of the dome with the flanking wings, and although

he kept all of his records when he left, his original design drawing

is in the Library of Congress.

Hallet was replaced by a young and inexperienced George

Hadefield. Hadefield came highly recommended by the British

ambassador at the time, but according to Thornton, he later

admitted that be h~ad never supervised any project, public or private.

He also began by abrasively criticising the plans and the work.

Thornton was immediately alienated and by this time he was a commissioner,

so Hadefield never had a chance. He also undertook other commissions

in Washington, such as the treasury and Extecutive Offices, the City

Hall, the county jail, the arsenal, Branch Bank of the U.S., and

private residences for: Commodore Porter and George Washington

Parke Custis. The last is known as the Custis-Lee mansion in

Arlington Cemetery. His supervision of the Treasury and Executive

Offices, together with the problems in supervision of the Capitol,

led to his removal, in 1798. His failure on the Capitol project

dominated his other successes, and years later Latrobe wrote of

Hadefield, he loiters here, ruined in fortune, temper, and


After Hadefield was removed, George Washington gave Thornton

a mandate to get the construction going. Thornton gave Hallet

credit for many valuable contributions to the Capitol, but he accorded

him the total blame for the change in the foundations and the

reduction in size of the Senate chamber. He ordered Hallet-'s

square foundations torn out and replaced by circular ones.

Construction proceeded smoothly under Thornton until the Board

of Commissioners was abolished In 1802, at which time Thornton

was appointed to head the Patent Office.

Meanwhile, President Jefferson had become acquainted with

architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Latrobe had been asked by Jefferson

to design a huge dry dock for the Navy. Jefferson had suggested a size

about 175 feet by 200 feet, with a roof like the Halle aux Blds in

Paris. Latrobe came up with a design which Jefferson likg ~and

supported, but Congress never approved funds for. Lattrobe's

plan called for a structure 165 feet by 800 feet, and used

laminated beams for the roof type that Jefferson suggested.6

Jefferson determined through his dealings with Latrobe that

the architect was both easy to work with, and capable of handling

a, project of great scale. Jefferson had such a project on his

hands in the building of the Capitol.

Although the Capitol had been occupied since 1800 when the

House of Representatives began meeting in the North wing, there

were many problems to be solved. Basic repairs were already necessary,

the roof leaked and the plaster cracked. The House of Representatives

was using; a temporary room which they called the n Bake Oven ", due

its shape and the lack of ventilation. The central portion of

the building was a complex arrangement of foundations based

on two separate plans.

It was in this climate and when Congress appropriated

$50,000 to begin the South wing, that Jefferson off erred Latrobe

the job of Surveyor of the Publie Buildings of the United States

on March 6, 1803. Latrobe had only been in this country five years.

Latrobe visited Washington in March and April mainly for the

task of selecting a clerk of the works that he could rely on.

Latrobe did not plan to move to Washington, and he had several

other projects going. It was essential that a competent and compatible

clerk be chosen so that Latrobe could make the decisions by mail

when necessary, and be sure that they were executed properly.

Re selected John Lenthall, an experienced builder who lived in

Washington. Lenthall's wife was the daughter of Robert King, the

city surveyor, so Lenthall had an intimate knowledge of

Washington conditions and personalities. The first letter from

Latrobe to Lenthall says that Latrobe has secured housing for him

near the Capitol*r There was a warm personal relationship between

the two even though Lenthall grew increasingly emotional and

volatile over his tenure. His single-mindedness toward the Capitol

work led him to be intolerant and rude to those of lesser dedieation,

bupmis admiration of Latrobe was unfailing.

When Latrobe was appointed to the job and studied the state

of the project, he was given five different plans, but only had

room shapes to go by as Thornton had not provided any sections

Latrobe wrote a long report on his examination of the work, and

met with Thornton to get information he needed. The main points

of his report were that the quality of work was so low, much of it

should be removed for safety reasons, auxiliary spaces called for

were not there and lighting the spaces that were would be difficult.

Wood beam were already rotting and the structure needed a roof which

would not leak. Latrobe's task was multiface~tedb He had to remove

unsafe construction, prepare drawings for the work to be done,

negotiate changes in the plan where he felt they were necessary,

acquire the stone necessary to get the exterior up so that Jefferson

would have something to show Congress, negotiate contracts and

a multitude of other related jobs, all from a distance.8

A year after Latrobe hrad been hired, the final plan for the House

of Representatives was still not decided upon. Thornton was asked

to show what he intended, and he furnished a plan with the committee

rooms encircling the chamber. Latrobe said that this would make the

chamber an impossibly dark area, and he went on to get all his facts

together and once and for all air out all the difficulties and

problems with Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was finally convinced

that changes were necessary and ordered Latrobe to do what was

required to straighten things out, but to stay as close as possible

to the plan approved by Washington. It was at this time when Latrobe

changed Thornton's ellipse to two semi-circles butting against a

parallelogram; he had objected to the former plan on acoustical and

economical grounds.

Thornton became an intractable enemy and was the source or

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PLATE 19. Latrobe's; modification of Thornton's design for the Hall of Representatives. Origina ~drawing is in ~the Library of

inspiration for countless personal attacks on Latrobe during his tenure.

Many of these attacks came through the Washington Federalist, the

local newspaper. This conflict was finally halted when Latrobe

initiated a libel suit against Thornton. Thornton's lawyer,

Francis Scott Key, had to ask for numerous delays while trying to

prepare a defense. Thornton's letter had been full of biased,

unsubstantiated, fictitious material, that he never could provide Key

with data for a defense, and Latrobe won the decision. His Rawyer

did not press for damages.

Latrobe was responsible for bringing two Italian sculptors

to this country to work on the decoration for the Capitol.

Fransoni and Andrei created much of the rich sculpture on the

Capitol. Fransoni was the more prolific of the two, but much of the

work he did was destroyed when the British burned the building.

Andrei was very slow, but one of his works was creation of the

Sworn Cob Capital which was designed by Latrobe. Latrobe said he got

more praise from Congress for the capitals than he did for anything

in the major work. He also designed the Tobacco Leaf Capital, still

there today, and a Cotton Capital which might have been used in the

North wing destroyed by the British.9

In spite of a traumatic budget overrun, and Lenthall's tragic

death when an arch collapsed on him, Latrobe had completed the

Rouse and Senate chambers, the Supreme Court chamber and all

required auxiliary rooms. Latrobe then studied the building and

recommended the extension to the west in which a library would go.

The final appropriation was made in April 1812, but the finished




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PLATEC 1-t. Drlaing or 'Tobacco leaf" capital. De-signed by Latrobe. Re-

prodigd from Brown's "History of the United States Capitol"

[84 ]

Capitol would not long stan. During the War of 1812, the British

burned fires in every room, shot rockets through the roof, and

when the House of Representatives withstood the punishment, they

built a great bonfire in the middle of the chamber with all the

combustible material they could find until the roof structure was


Latrobe was recalled to rebuild the Capitol. This was a certain

vindication of Latrobe of the complaints and criticisms lodged

against him during the original construction. He went at the job

with great enthusiasm, seeing the opportunity to create a better

and finer building. The same old problems arose again, however,

with rising material costs and scarcities Latrobe's attention

to other commissions in other cities, labor problems and strikes,

pressure from Congress to build faster with better materials on

less money, and a deteriorating relationship with the commissioner

to whom he reported, made.the project increasingly difficult for

Latrobe. There was a hostility toward Latrobe among members of

Congress and the President that can only be only be understood

after careful, study of the channels of authority in the construction

and of the peculiar personalities of all the individuals involved.

Ramlin points out in his Biography of Latrobe what the architect

accomplished in twenty months,

Completed demolition of damaged structure

-Designed a different, better plan for the south wing

Designed an almost new horth wing, with a larger Senate

chamber that Congress wanted

-Designed the central rotunda and western extension

-Despite problems mentioned above, completed the north

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PULTO 29.-l(p~earbnce of Capitol after fire of 1814. Sketrp by miniahltapainitr n~mrd Cllllrnden Rrprodu~d from Blo~
"History of the United States Capitol"

and south wings except for roofing and finish work.

Because of the extent of the damage, and the new plans,

this was the equivalent of at least six years of original

building accomplishment, completed in two and a half years*11
The climax of the problems came when the commissioner with

whom Latrobe was having problems, reprimanded Latrobe in front of

the President. Latrobe, his son having recently died, having

broken with an old friend over a design disagreement, and being

heavily in debt, was in no frame of mind to endure further insult

at the hands of Lane. He physically grabbed Lane and told him

that if he were not a cripple he would shake him to atoms".12

As a result of the incident, Latrobe knew that he could not remain

on the project so he resigned.

On a couple of occasions, when President Monroe visited

Boston, he was shown around by Charles Bulfinch. Bulfinch had been

born in Boston, and had grown up during the Revolution, and remembered

such events as the Boston Tea Party, the fight against the Stamp Act,

and the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill. He was able to see

the latter from the roof of his home. Bulfinch was born into a

wealthy family and later spent a year and a half travelling

around Europe, visiting places which were recommended by 'Thomas

Jefferson. He returned home and acted as an advisor on construction

matters for friends. He submitted a plan for the state house to

be built on Bunker Hill, and the plan won. It was delayed for a

few years because of the cost, but when it was commenced in 1795,

Samuel Adams laid the cornerstone and Paul Revere conducted the



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I)LATE 46. Eleuati-n drawing of Capitol, by C. A,,Dusby, an English architect. Measurements taken in Ls19; pu61BheJ ir~ Ir zi

Masonic ceremonies. From his early success, he built a successful

practice, but lost his family fortune in a big housing

development scheme which forced him into bankruptcy. From this

point he was to rely exclusively on his architectural practice

to support his family. On one of his jobs, he had met James Monroe

before he was President, and Monroe had him shown around the

Capitol ruins*1) Monroe, therefore, knew Bulfinch before he went

to Boston. Near the end of Latrobe's time on the job, Bulfinch

began getting feelers about the job. Although Latrobe's

removal as architect was thought to be coming soon, Bulfinch

refused to submit any application which might lead to Latrobe's

dismissal. He did, however, submit an application promptly

upon Latrobe's resignation.

Bulfinch was appointed to execute the plans, and was very enthused ibout the~

about the work. As an aid in communication, he had a model built

which he used to present the building to Congress, and explain the

plans. This was a very successful move and resulted in an early

appropriation.14 He also showed the Congress several proposals

for the Capitol dome, including one which he thought was too

high for good taste. To his dismay, Congress liked'the highest

dome and some were heard to express the wish that it could be

higher. Thanks to Latrobe, Bulfinch found many plans and

much material on hand. Bulfinch was a sensitive and understanding

individual who realized that his task was to build according to

existing plans, and he willingly did this, making only corrections

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PLATE 47. Plan of the Capitol, by C. A. Busby, showinP rhonnPP R.I uPi(j


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PLAT 48 Wes frnt o Caito. Ethedby W I.Ston frm dawin byBulfnch pubishd (821) inNatinalCaledar Re
prdcd rma oigin pin Tin7T Tiithe~ I autor' coletion~ F~l n5~R P: ~

of errors and refinements. He gave attention to the hazards

of storing fuel, and completed the Library of Congress. One

of the changes he made was in the details of the Western fronts

he followed the theme of his Boston State House, and the result is a

more delicate treatment than Latrobe had designed. He worked on the project

until 1829 when the Congress abolished his position. Under Bulfinch

the Capitol was restored and the design completely executed much

as Latrobe had intended.

It wasn't long before growth of the country created the need for

more space. The Commission on Public Buildings recommended expansion

of the Capitol, and Robert Mills, then Architect of Public Buildings,

was ordered by Congress to hold a competition. In the notice, Mills

said that the extension could be projecting wings or a separate

building within the enclosure to the east. He stated that they

preferred plans which related to the present building; and preserved

the present symmetry. Though only one plan would be adopted, the

commission reserved the right to form a final plan from the elements

of the submitted plans. The prize was to be five hundred dollars*15

Architect Thomas Ustick Walter was selected as a result of the

competition, but the plan he finally came up with was not his

submission, for his earliest plans were for a single building.

After he was sworn in on .1June 10, 1851, we worked on several

other plans, and the cornerstone of the extension was laid on

July rcth, 1851. Among other things placed in the stone was a

speech made by Daniel Webater, Secretary of State, at the ceremony.

During the next couple of months, Walter entered into many contracts

for materials and services. Some examples are, 5,ooo,000 bricks Q

$1.67 per thousand, hydraulic cement at $1.17 a barrel with 12)#

credited for each returned barrel, and marble from Lee, Mass. at


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PCl ATE 61. Pla ofI th Cap to-. co p e e y at r e r d cd f o ro n it r ft e t d S a e a Ito

65iP a cubic foot for blocks under thirty cubic feet, and $1.98

a cubic foot for all blocks over thirty cubic feet.16

Arrangements were moving along well, but without keeping

the Congress informed of the progress. Congress began pressing the

president for details they were especially interested in

the arrangements for proper heating, ventilation, lighting and

acoustics, all of which had troubled them in the older building.

By December 1852, all the foundations had been laid, and they ranged

in thickness from fifteen to forty feet.

About this time, the LibrarysofCon ress burned, and Walter was commissioned

to examine the damage and make recommendations for repair, and

expansion. The Senate approved his plans which called for interior

structural and decorative detail of iron, even including bookcases

and shelves. The contract for the ironwork went to Beebe and Co. of

New York.

It seems that no work could be done on the Capitol without

the controversy caused by jealous and self-serving personalities

involved in the supervision, or trying to gain some authority

in the matter. President Fillmore was not moved by the Congressional

pressures to do this or do that, and he supported the architect in

pursuing the work as it was planned. Walter, however, was to

report to the Secretary of the Interior on the extension work.

The Commissioner of Public Buildings, William Esby, wanted

supervision of the work, and he complained from the beginning about

methods of work. He finally made charges of fraud in the employment

practices, in the letting of contracts, and the quality of materials

and workmanship. Examination of the projectzbecause of these charges,

showed that the work had been well done, and that the problems

which did exist were due to governmental red tape forcing the

architect to do something other than what he felt was best. One

example was the purchase of stone and the working of the stone let

as contracts with separate parties, instead of as one contract as

Walter wanted.

When President Franklin Pierce took office, he was not as

strong when it came to resisting Can~gress and other critics.

He changed supervision to the War Department, and Captain MI.C.

Mleigs was put in charge. Meigs conducted a thorough study of the

state of the work and Walter was thoroughly vindicated by the

results. They concluded that the work was done well, and that the

marble, after it dried out, would be the most beautiful specimen

of marble work in the United States. Some changes were made in the

interior design, however, and the chambers were moved to the center

of the wings, on axis with the old Capitol. This resulted in a

clam for compensation by Charles Anderson, one of the competitors,

because he was the only one in the competition who placed the

chambers in that position.

Costs went up and the bricks ordered in December 1852, 10,000,000

were to cost $5*85 per thousand.17The basement story was completed in

1853, except for the arches to support the main floor, but the

supply of stone was too slow. It had to be shipped ninety miles

by rail to Bridgeport, Conn., then by water to Washington.

Finally however, after a few years of relatively smooth work, Captc.

Meigs reported that the House of Representatives was ready for


Walter had been authorized to design a new dome for the

Capitol, and the result was the cast iron dome we know today.

By 1858, the dome was complete to the cornice of the colonnade.i

Work on the Senate was slowed by delays in getting the necessary ironwork.

Stairs, fixtures and other decorations were ready for the Senate,

and a new ten inch gas main was installed with an eight inch branch for

each wing, but when they were put in, it was discovered that the

gas company was incapable of providing that quantity of gas. They

had to install a new gasometer in order to have that capability.

The Library of Congress was completed, and the Senate wing

was ready for occupancy on January 4th, 1859*

The internal construction of the buildings is solid brick

masonry with all ceilings and floors of brick vaulting, except

the ceilings over the chambers which were cast iron with glazed i

panels on which were painted the heralds of the states. The roof

was carried by trusses of rolled beams and iron rods, ang'covered

by glass and copper laid on rolled iron purlins.

The relationship between Meigs and Walter began to deteriorate,

(Shades of Lane and Latrobe.), and a battle of authority was carried

on over the possession of the drawings. Interestingly, a series

of office relocations carried them physically farther apart as the

relationship declined. Walter was finally upheld by an interpretation

of policy by an Ulndersecretary of War, who stated that the drawings

t~t' ~ ~,

- ,.
'W: ,~~e
'i: s
~ ~ i'.'~_ :~:a'..sJ~;~F~.'~ :;i

Ir.:if~ ;: ~ .


PLATE 67. Section of Dome; designed by Thomas U. Walter. Original

drawing is in the Ljinary of Congress Il3

.~ ,


PLAT~E5' 68.' Secio of Dome show;j~iTing cosruto o caflin n
temprar rof;dsgF y hmsU atr Oiia si h
Librar of Cogress
i ~ ~ ~ 195 ]i~w d

were to remain in the office of the architect, even though Meigs

should have them as he needed them for work. Mleigs then wrote him

a rather insubordinate letter in which he said that he, Meigs, was

as capable of interpreting~ the policy as any undersecretary or clerk.

When the Secretary of War returned and learned of the letter, Mieigs

was sternly censured and relieved a9 duty on the project. Meigs

wrote a letter to the President defending his position, but to no


The War Betw~een the States slowed wofik on the building, due

to the focus of attention which it demanded, the expense of it,

and the scarcity of materials and labor it caused. For a time the

western portion was turned into a bakery for the soldiers, and the

crypt was used for flour storage. Then it was converted into a

hospital when 1500O beds were moved into every part of the building.

Finally the Commissioner of Public Buildings protested, and President

Lincoln ordered everything moved out just in time to clean up for


Some work continued, however, and the dome was completed

and the Statue of Freedom raised into place on December 2, 1863*

When the Statue was put in place, a thirty-five gun salute was

fired at the Capitol, followed by a dozen more thirty-five gun

salutes, in successiongfrom forts around the city.20

After another shift in the supervision, Walter resigned in

1865 when the Secretary of the Interior voided a contract that

Walter had made and ordered the Commissioner of Public Buildings to

PLATE 72. The Capital with city and Potomac River in background. The Washin tn Mlonument is show n with square base,, de-
signed by Robert Mills, but. never built. Tiber canal occupies present location of Constltution .Avenle f'rom which it hirns to
the south. Fmrontan old engraving in the author's collection


assume control of the project. When Walter left/ the dome and the

new wings of the Capitol were virtually complete.

With Walter's resignation, the Capitol as we know it was

completed. It is an interesting story in which the personalities

of the parties involved cannot be separated from the architecture.

Even now, questions have arisen on changes in the Capitol, and

bracing of the columns on the western extension bear witness that

some work will have to be done on the building. In light of

past experiences related here, it will be interesting to follow

the progress of the issue.


I.T. Frary, They Built TheCapitol (Richmond, Virginias Garret and
Massie, 1980O), p.21

Ibid,., p.29*

'H.P. Caemmerer, Washington. The National_ Capital (Washington, D.C. sGovernment
Printing Office,1932), p.259*

4Frary, op. cit., p.146.
5Ibid., p*45*

6T. Hamelin, Bengimin Henry Latrobe (Nlew Yorks Qxford University Press, 1955)

Ibid., p.260.

Ibidr, p262.

Ibid, p.270.

10Ibid. p.438.
Ibi1. p*4b53*
Ibide, p.477.

13rary, op.cit., P.137.

Ibid., p.141.
15 GlnLrwHsoyof the U.S. C~apitol. (Washinfltonc, D.C.1 C overnmen~t
Printing; Office, 1903), p.1169

IIbid., p.125*
Ibid., p.128.
Ibid., p.129-30.
Ibid., p.135*
Ibidr, p.138.


Brown, Glenn. A History of the_ U~nited States Capitol. Washington, D.C.s
Government Printing Office, 1900.

Caemmerer, H.P. Washington, The Na~tional Capital. Washington, D.CIs
Government Printing Office, 1932.

Frary, I.T. They Built The Capitol. Richmond, Vrirginias Garrgtt and
Massie, 1940.

Gallagher, H.MI.P. Robert Mills. New Yorks Columbia University Press, 1935*

Hamlin, Talbot. Benjamin Henry Latrobe. New Yorks Oxford University Press,

Kite, Elizabeth S. L'Enfant and Washi~niton Arno Press, 1970.

Padover, S.K., ed. Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital. Washing-
ton, D).C.s Government Printi~ng Office, 196

Truett, R.B., ed. Wa shingtonL, D.C. A @uide to the Nation's Capital.
New Yorks Kastings House, 168

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