One of D.C.’s finest examples of neoclassical architecture, the United States Capitol Building is a fitting symbol of the country’s strength and resilience. Construction on the building began in 1793 during the presidency of George Washington. The north wing was completed in 1800, but the south wing wasn’t finished until 1811. The building suffered significant damage by British troops during the War of 1812, and reconstruction took four years to complete. Once the chambers for the Senate and House were rebuilt, construction began on the most recognizable elements of the Capitol Building, the center section with its columned portico and massive rotunda topped by a high dome. The rotunda’s interior was almost certainly inspired by the Pantheon, while the dome bears a striking resemblance to Jules Hardouin-Mansart’s domed chapel at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.
The Greco-Roman ideals that guided the country’s founders are reflected in the Capitol Building’s functional, yet aesthetically pleasing design. Marble exteriors, soaring columns, and triangular pediments are all representative of the neoclassical style that was being used in the designs of many of the structures built along the National Mall. The interior spaces are decorated with symmetrical patterns, a frieze depicting important events in U.S. history, and a fresco called The Apotheosis of Washington with figures from classical mythology surrounding George Washington, who is ascending into Heaven. These artistic embellishments are in keeping with the timeless elegance of neoclassical design.
Guided tours of the Capitol Building include an up-close look at the Doric columns that support the Rotunda, the Rotunda itself, and the National Statuary Hall.