THE FIRST WHITE HOUSES PART III

War of 1812
See also: Burning of Washington

The Capitol after the August 1814 burning of Washington, D.C., by the British, during the War of 1812 (painting 1814 by George Munger)

Not long after the completion of both wings, the Capitol was partially burned by the British on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812.

George Bomford and Joseph Gardner Swift, both military engineers, were called upon to help rebuild the Capitol. Reconstruction began in 1815 and included redesigned chambers for both Senate and House wings (now sides), which were completed by 1819.

During the reconstruction, Congress met in the Old Brick Capitol, a temporary structure financed by local investors. Construction continued through to 1826, with the addition of the center section with front steps and columned portico and an interior Rotunda rising above the first low dome of the Capitol. Latrobe is principally connected with the original construction and many innovative interior features; his successor Bulfinch also played a major role, such as design of the first low dome covered in copper.

Daguerreotype of east side of the Capitol in 1846, by John Plumbe, showing Bulfinch’s dome

The House and Senate Wings
By 1850, it became clear that the Capitol could not accommodate the growing number of legislators arriving from newly admitted states. A new design competition was held, and President Millard Fillmore appointed Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter to carry out the expansion. Two new wings were added: a new chamber for the House of Representatives on the south side, and a new chamber for the Senate on the north.

The earliest known interior photograph of the Capitol, taken in 1860 and showing the new House of Representatives chamber
When the Capitol was expanded in the 1850s, some of the construction labor was carried out by slaves “who cut the logs, laid the stones and baked the bricks”.[35] The original plan was to use workers brought in from Europe; however, there was a poor response to recruitment efforts, and African Americans, some free and some enslaved, composed the majority of the work force.

Capitol dome
Main article: United States Capitol dome

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, before the partially complete Capitol dome
The 1850 expansion more than doubled the length of the Capitol, and dwarfed the original, timber-framed, copper-sheeted, low dome of 1818, designed by Charles Bulfinch which was no longer in proportion with the increased size of the building.

In 1855, the decision was made to tear it down and replace it with the “wedding-cake style” cast-iron dome that stands today. Also designed by Thomas U. Walter, the new dome would stand three times the height of the original dome and 100 feet (30 m) in diameter, yet had to be supported on the existing masonry piers.

Like Mansart’s dome at “Les Invalides” (which he had visited in 1838), Walter’s dome is double, with a large oculus in the inner dome, through which is seen “The Apotheosis of Washington” painted on a shell suspended from the supporting ribs, which also support the visible exterior structure and the tholos that supports The “Statue of Freedom”, a colossal statue that was raised to the top of the dome in 1863. The weight of the cast iron for the dome has been published as 8,909,200 pounds (4,041,100 kg).

Later expansion

The Washington Depot with the U.S. Capitol in the distance (1872 view)
When the Capitol’s new dome was finally completed, its massive visual weight, in turn, overpowered the proportions of the columns of the East Portico, built in 1828. The East Front of the Capitol building was rebuilt in 1904, following a design of the architects Carrère and Hastings, who also designed the Russell Senate and Cannon House office buildings. Wiki

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