The U.S. Capitol's cast-iron dome was designed by architect Thomas U. Walter and constructed from 1855 to 1866. The Statue of Freedom was placed atop the dome in 1863.

Located on the east end of the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol is an icon of 19th-century neoclassical architecture that houses the country's legislative branches and stands as a symbol of the United States. The building's cornerstone was laid on September 18, 1793, and it's been burnt, rebuilt, expanded, and restored since then. The original building was designed by William Thornton, a Scottish-trained physician and neophyte architect whose blueprint was selected by President George Washington.

When Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in 1800, only the north wing of the building was complete. Then in 1814 the building was torched by British troops, but a serendipitous downpour spared its complete destruction. The chambers of the Senate and House, as well as those for the Supreme Court, were ready for use by 1819.

By 1850, an expansion was necessary to accommodate the growing legislature: The wings were lengthened, and the rickety wood-and-copper dome was replaced by the the current stately cast-iron dome. Today the Capitol has a floor area of about 16.5 acres. It houses the legislative chambers as well as a museum of American art and history.

U.S. Capitol Information

U.S. Capitol Information

Address: Near Independence Ave. S.W. and 1st St. S.W. Washington, D.C.

Telephone: 202/225-6827

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mon. - Sat.

Admission: Free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Washington D.C. City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Washington D.C.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.