From its elevated perch atop Capitol Hill, the towering dome of the U.S. Capitol building is the most visible structure in a city filled with landmarks. Not only is the capitol the centre of the legislative branch of government, but it is also the geographic epicentre of the city. Directly under the dome, in the centre of the great rotunda, sits the central point of the city from where the four sections meet - Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast.
Construction on this magnificent neoclassic structure began in 1793, at a time when Philadelphia was still the capital of the nation. As the building progressed, the national government was moved to the city of Washington and the first session of the U.S. Senate was held in the completed section of the new capitol building in 1800, the same year in which President John Adams moved into the almost completed White House. The 1850’s saw the expansion with new massive wings for the larger House and Senate Chambers while the dome was completed in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War.
From the Capitol Visitor Centre, guests can take a guided tour through the historic building. Highlights on the tour are the Rotunda, Crypt and National Statuary Hall. The Rotunda is the area directly under the massive dome. Important American works of art line the surrounding walls and a beautiful mural decorates the ceiling of the ornate inner dome. The Crypt is a public area used for exhibits and Statutory Hall features historically significant statues and sculptures honouring important citizens from each state.
The Capitol Visitor Centre is located underground on the East Front of the capitol building. The visitor centre features an exhibit hall, a gift shop and a restaurant. There are three Metro stops within easy walking distance – Union Station, Capitol South and Federal Center.