The Capitol Dome

Capitol dome
Capitol dome

As I looked up from East Capitol Street last week, I saw the scaffolded Capitol dome under lights. (Excuse the less-than-stellar photo.)The project will repair more than 1,000 cracks and otherwise restore the cast iron structure for both aesthetic and safety reasons.

When Julia Wilbur first came to Washington in late 1862, a dome to accommodate the expanded Capitol was under construction. According to the account on the U.S. Capitol website, the old dome was removed in 1856.

On a leisurely tour (she would have just walked in, as people did to the Capitol and other federal buildings, including the White House), she wrote rather factually on October 31, 1862:

Height of dome above basement floor 264 ft. area of ground actually covered 3½ acres The dome is all of iron & is to be surmounted by a statue of the Goddess of Liberty, 20 ft. high, weighing 17000 lbs. It is now in the Cap. Grounds, bronze, made by Clarke at Bladensburg.

But, meanwhile, who else was there?

1100 sick soldiers have been here till about 3 wks. since.

With hospital beds at a premium, especially in the early years of the war, the Capitol was used as a hospital ward or as barracks for soldiers.

Here was the Capitol at Lincoln's inauguration (photo from Library of Congress collection):

US Capitol, 1861
US Capitol, 1861
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