Congress Halls — old and New.
From an article in the National Intelligencer,
entitled "Notes from the Capitol
," we extract the following:
When the Sixth Congress met here, to commence its second session, on the sixth of November, 1800, there was "no quorum present" in either the Senate Chamber
or the Hall
of the House
, which had been fitted up in the north wing of the Capital
, the corner-stone of which had been laid by George Washington
seven years previously.
In a few days the members arrived, and on the 22d, President
the two Houses were organized the session, in accordance with the parliamentary usage of Great Britain
The President took his seat in the chair of the presiding officer of the Senate, and then the House
came in, headed by Mr. Speaker Sedgwick
The President then delivered his address, after which the House
Replies to the address were then discussed and adopted in the Senate and in the House
, and were presented by committees of those bodies.
In 1802 the House of Representatives removed to a temporary hall, made by roofing over the half-built south wing of the Capitol
, and consequently so low that it was called "the oven." In 1804, the House
moved back into the north wing, until its hall was finished, in 1808.
These two wings were temporarily connected by a wooden gallery.
On the 24th of August, 1814, the British
troops occupied the Capitol
, after having fired a volley through the windows.
, of his Majesty King George's navy, took the Speaker
's chair, and put the question: "Shall this harbor of Yankee Democracy be burned?
All for it will say aye — contrary minded, no!" The ayes had it, and soon the red-coated vandals had large fires kindled, which destroyed the interior of the wings and the connecting gallery.
A library of three thousand volumes and two fine portraits of Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette
were among the valuables burned or stolen.
Before Congress met in extra session, on the 19th of September, 1814, the citizens of Washington
had aided in preparing temporary accommodations in the "Blodgett's Hotel" building, a huge pile built by lottery, which occupied the site of the present General Post office, on F street, between Seventh and Eighth streets.
There were some members who advocated a return of the seat of government to Philadelphia
, and, to prevent this, several wealthy land-owners erected the building now known as the Old Capitol, which Congress leased by act of December 8, 1815.
The Sixteenth Congress, which met on the 6th of December, 1819, re-occupied the wings of the Capitol
, which had risen, phœnix-like, from their ashes.
The central building, containing the rotundo, was not completed until about 1825 or '26.
The Thirty-sixth Congress removed, early in the session of 1859-'60, into the newly-built extensions in which to-day will witness, at noon, "the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America
in Congress assembled." It will be the first session of the Thirty-ninth Congress, and its proceedings will doubtless eclipse in importance those of any Congress which has preceded it.
Completion of the Capitol.
Much has been done towards the completion of the Capitol
since Congress adjourned.
The exterior of the dome towers unto the height of three hundred feet in majestic proportions, and the porticoes of the eastern fronts, with their monolithic columns, are finished, with the exception of the capstones of the cheek blocks of the steps, and the vacant pediment of the southern portico.
The portico on the north side of the north wing was completed last week, and the gigantic traverse crane — the largest one ever used — has been removed to the west side of the north wing, to set the portico there.
The Library extensions, in the main building of the Capitol
, on the north and south sides of the present library, are being built by the Architectural Iron Works
of New York; and in clearing away for them, that noted refectory for bodacious legislators, the "Hole-in- the-Wall," has been demolished.
Each extension is to be nearly one hundred feet in length and twenty-nine feet in width, with four tiers of galleries and alcoves, instead of three, as in the old library.
The capacity of the present library is for 38,000 volumes; the extension will accommodate 76,000, and the attic will accommodate 20,000--making the total capacity 134,000 volumes.
By the removal of an archway over the stairs from the western terrace door, the entrance to the library can now be seen from the rotundo, and the architect has sensibly used some of the old pillars for his doorway, rather than indulge in the more flashy styles of ornamentation which disfigures the more recent additions to the Capitol
It was expected that Mr. Brumidi
would have had the fresco painting of the interior of the upper dome completed ere this, but on Saturday the concealing scaffolding had not been removed.
It represents "the Apotheosis of Washington,
" and covers an area of over six thousand square feet, some of the figures being eighteen feet high.