The United States Capitol is one of the most aesthetically significant and symbolically significant structures in the world. For almost two centuries, it has held the Senate and House of Representatives meeting rooms. The building is a landmark of Washington, D.C., and its architectural style is Neoclassical.
The current layout of the House and Senate chambers was established by the American Revolutionaries who met in special committees to debate legislation before them. The first Chamber of Commerce was used by members to negotiate business deals. Today these are the only rooms in the Capitol where votes can be taken on legislation or resolutions.
The third branch located at the Capitol is the Supreme Court. It is the highest court in the land and consists of nine judges who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Its role is to interpret and apply the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The Congress meets in regular session each year from January 3 until early April when members return home for their respective states' elections. If necessary, Congress can also meet in special sessions to address particular issues before it runs out of time. The last such session was in December 2009 when lawmakers passed the Obama health care law.
Begun in 1793, the United States Capitol has been erected, destroyed, rebuilt, enlarged, and renovated; it now stands as a memorial not just to its creators, but also to the American people and their government. The current Congress is in its fifth session in this building.
The House meets in the East Wing, which was built between 1824 and 1856 by Samuel Adkins and Henry Dearborn. The Senate meets in the West Wing, which was built between 1845 and 1851 by William Campbell and Thomas Jefferson Davis. Both wings are identical in size and style, with 12 rows of columns supporting a flat roof. There are separate entrances for each wing, on Capitol Street (for members of Congress) and Pennsylvania Avenue (for visitors).
The House and Senate chambers are located together in the center of the West Wing. They are separated by a small hallway with a door on either side. This room, called the "Gentleman's Apartment," is used by senators when they attend legislative hearings or debates. It is also available for private meetings or ceremonies if needed. A staff member opens one of the doors from the hallway whenever someone enters or leaves.
Both chambers have a lectern at which a senator or representative can speak during debate or voting. Each chair in Parliament sits behind a desk called a rostrum.
The United States Capitol Building The United States Capitol, the world's most renowned emblem of democratic governance, has hosted Congress since 1800. The Capitol is where Congress gathers to establish our nation's laws, as well as where presidents are sworn in and make their yearly State of the Union addresses. The building is a national monument managed by the National Park Service.
In addition to containing the House and Senate chambers, the Capitol also includes a museum, library, and office buildings. Located on an island in Washington, D.C., the Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. It features a central rotunda with 84 feet in diameter and 12 rows of columns supporting its dome, which is the largest in area (435 square yards) and highest (96 feet) in height among existing domes. The grounds cover 545 acres including 23 acres of water.
The Capitol was built over a period of nine years (1793-1801), at a cost of $1.33 million. It was officially opened on April 8, 1801, by President John Adams. On August 6, 1814, during the second year of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile on Saint Helena, the British commander there ordered that the Capitol's entire interior be dismantled down to the studs and shipped back to Britain for use as barracks material during the War of 1812.