On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete as architects came and went. The British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city's development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant to come up with the design. However, L'Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792.
A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol's cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way. In 1800, Congress moved into the Capitol's north wing. In 1807, the House of Representatives moved into the building's south wing, which was finished in 1811. During the War of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C., and set fire to the Capitol on 24 August 1814. A rainstorm saved the building from total destruction. Congress met in nearby temporary quarters from 1815 to 1819.
In the early 1850s, work began to expand the Capitol to accommodate the growing number of Congressmen. In 1861, construction was temporarily halted while the Capitol was used by Union troops as a hospital and barracks. Following the war, expansions and modern upgrades to the building continued into the next century. Today, the Capitol, which is visited by 3 million to 5 million people each year, has 540 rooms and covers a ground area of about four acres.
Also on this Day
They’re Noodles in a Cup - But What Should We Call It?
If you’re a student looking this then, please, stop reading immediately and get on with your education. University is very expensive these days and I know your Ma-Ma and Pop-Pop are struggling to keep you at Loughborough. But also, this is a day just for you! It was on this day in 1971 that the genius that is Mom... Read more >
Renowned secretary-general of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld dies in a plane crash on this day. Hammarskjöld, the son of a former Swedish prime minister, was elected to the top U.N. post in 1953 and in 1957 was unanimously re-elected. During his second term, he initiated and directed the United Nation's vigorous role in the Belgian Congo, which included the deployment of peacekeeping tro... Read more >
South Vietnamese officials claim that two companies from the North Vietnamese army have invaded South Vietnam. A battle resulted in Quang Tri Province, just south of the Demilitarized Zone, but the North Vietnamese forces were defeated with heavy casualties. Since North Vietnamese main force units had not been seen in South Vietnam before, U.S. military advisers questioned whether these were ac... Read more >
On this day in 1917, 23-year-old Aldous Huxley, future author of Brave New World is hired as a schoolmaster at Eton. One of his pupils will be Eric Blair, who will later use the pen name George Orwell. Huxley was born into a prominent family. His grandfather was a famous biologist and proponent of Darwin, and his father was a respected biographer. Huxley hoped to become a scientist like his gra... Read more >