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Top 10 Remarkable Facts about the Capitol Hill in Washington DC


the White House and Capitol Building are about two miles apart. The Capitol is on First St SE, Washington, DC 20004.

Capitol Hill is closely associated with the United States Congress as well as being one of the largest historic residential neighbourhood in Washington, D.C.

It stretches from the Capitol to the wide avenues. There are about 35,000 residents making it one of the densely populated areas in Washington DC.

Although Capitol Hill is no longer at the centre of the federal district, it forms part of the original street numbering system.

The original building was completed in 1800 but got destroyed in 1814. The building was restored five years later.  

Following the renovation of the building, it was enlarged and a huge dome was added too.

It was partly destroyed in the 1814 burning of Washington, then was fully restored within five years. There are 10 remarkable facts about this building. Check them below.

1. A competition for the best design was proposed by Thomas Jefferson

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Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson placed a competition for the best design of the building. Before doing that, Jefferson edited the publication and referred to the building as Capitol.

The building was regarded of great national importance and it had great symbolic roots.

Jefferson worked on the plan of the building with L’Enfant who got fires for refusing to show up at a meeting.  

Some of the finest architects in America took part in the competition. The winner was awarded $500, a prize which a French architect won.

His design was rejected because it was expensive. A late entry by William Thornton was accepted.

2. The winner of the contest entered the competition late

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A late entry to the competition by architect William Thornton saved the day. President Washington loved the design terming it as a grandeur, simple and beautiful design.

Thornton was inspired by the Louvre as well as the Pantheon in Paris. The design was approved in 1793 and he was the first architect to work in the Capitol.  

His submission was also said to be costly and some alterations were done.

3. It was not always known as Capitol Hill

The area along Capitol Hill was known as Jenkins Hill in the early 1790s. Architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, together with Thomas Jefferson, identified the location. Construction of the Capitol began in 1973.  

4. There were plans to bury the first president under the Capitol

By Gilbert Stuart -Wikimedia

After the first president of the United States passed away, there were plans to bury him in a crypt under the Capitol.

President Wahington had however requested to be buried at Mount Vernon. The Crypt is used to keep some of the National Statuary Hall Collection and to house a gift shop.

5. The Capitol has its own subway

The subway at the Capitol has been there since 1909. It is used by politicians from the Senate buildings to the Capitol.

There are three underground electric movers that connect all three office buildings and one of the four House office buildings.

An operator-controlled rail was installed in 1960 for the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Later in 1965, a two-car subway was installed and extended to the Hart Senate Office building.

The only time the public is allowed to use the subway is during tours of the Capitol Complex. They are usually escorted by a staff member properly identified.

6. It was destroyed by the British Army in 1812

In 1812, the British Army attacked the Capitol building together with bridges in the Washington area.

They set fire on the Capitol together with other government buildings. Architect Benjamin said the destruction of the Capitol was a magnificent ruin.

While the building was being renovated, the Senate held temporary meetings at Blodgett’s Hotel.

Renovation work was completed in 1815 and the senate resumed their meetings at the Capitol building.

7. The statue of freedom sits on the dome

By Jack Boucher – Wikimedia

The centrepiece of the Capitol is the dome. It is a large, circular room located in the centre of the U.S. Capitol. The room is 180 feet high and 96 feet in diameter.

On top of the dome is a statue that weighs 15000 pounds. The statue id 19.5 feet tall and was only removed in 1993 for restoration.

Construction of the dome took about 11 years and nine million pounds of iron was used.

8. It is the 5th tallest building in Washington DC

The U.S. Capitol is the fifth-tallest building in D.C. the other four buildings are the Washington Monument, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Old Post Office and the Washington National Cathedral.

9. With the Civil War, came more buildings at the Capitol Hill

More buildings were constructed around the Capitol Hill area including the building of hospitals. New houses were constructed between the 1870s and 1880s.

Unfortunately, the neighbourhood got divided by race and economic lines. Basic amenities like electricity piped water, and plumbing was introduced in the 1890s.

In 1976, the area was named as a Historic District and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

10. The Capitol Hill was used for religious purposes

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The Capitol was used for Sunday services as well as governmental functions. The first services were done in the hall of the House in the north wing of the building.

When the service was held in the House chamber, the Speaker’s podium was used as the preacher’s podium.

Jefferson attended the service after he got inaugurated. A female evangelist was the first to ever preach in the Dome.

In January 1806, a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style prayer in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a crowded audience.