Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fun facts about the U.S. Capitol building

The United States Capitol building is a striking design and probably the most recognized building in the District. With its beautiful dome centered on top of the building and its ornate design, it's no surprise the building attracts so many visitors each year.

While the U.S. Capitol is surely recognizable, there are some other things about the building you may not have heard before. 

10 fun facts about the U.S. Capitol building

1. Congress met for the first time in the newly-created Capitol building in November 1800. This took place approximately 11 months after the death of George Washington. Construction had begun under Washington's leadership in 1793.

2. The building stretches from north to south, a total of 751 feet, 4 inches.

3. The statue atop the U.S. Capitol building is named the Statue of Freedom, it faces to the east.

4. Did you know there is a crypt placed in the center of the Capitol? The crypt was designed to house the remains of George and Martha Washington. However, Washington designated in his will he wanted to be buried at his beloved Mount Vernon and his family did not wish to move him and Martha. That wish was honored. The tomb in the Capitol remains empty to this day. 

5. There are 100 statues located in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state is allotted two statues and is chosen by each individual state. 

Statuary Hall in US Capitol building

6. At the time of this writing, there are currently nine women represented in the National Statuary Hall Collection. One of them is Helen Keller, donated by the State of Alabama.

7. There are marble bathtubs in the basement of the Capitol where members of Congress would take baths back in the 19th century.

8. There are underground subways located underneath the building that is not open to the public.

9. The British burned the Capitol in 1814. It took many years to rebuild and, over the years, has had additions as the United States grew in size in order to accommodate the additional Congressional members. Anytime an addition is added to one side, an equal change is made to the other. This is intentional - it keeps balance, just like the U.S. government's 

structure is designed to do.

10. The Capitol has 540 rooms.

11. Bonus fact: During a tour I took in March 2016, I and learned the dome itself is not made of marble or other stone-based material. It is made of cast iron and painted its brilliant white. The dome had undergone major restoration inside and out but was finished in time for the 2017 inauguration. 

A shiny new restored dome. You can still see some scaffold - that should be coming down later in 2016

Visitors today can visit the Capitol for a tour. It's a good idea to plan ahead for this visit. For more information on how to book a visit, I've got a detailed post about planning your tour.

The Capitol is a lovely structure. Here is a view from the Old Post Office tower.


  1. You always amaze me with the things that you know about Washington DC. Great post.

    1. Thanks. I was inspired in the oddest place the other day to write this one and it ended up on a sticky note in my back pocket (lol).