Evolution of the Capitol Building, Washington DC

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
This is just these little funny things which could be plausibly explained, I guess. At the same time, when the totality of all the weirdness is taken into account, it becomes harder and harder to justify bloopers like this.

First of all, we have two distinctive iterations of the DC Capitol building, and those you can observe below. Please attract your attention to those "domy" thingies I circled. I caught this weirdness during the Norumbega thread times.

Capitol Building
In 1850, Senator Jefferson Davis introduced an appropriation bill to enlarge the Capitol. President Millard Fillmore selected architect Thomas U. Walter to construct large northern and southern wings containing new legislative chambers. As work progressed, Walter also designed a new cast-iron dome to better suit the enlarged building. By 1868 the larger building was completed, and the grounds were subsequently enlarged.
united-states-capitol-building_3_1_1.jpg

Now, in reference to the main dome upgrade we have the following information:
  • The U.S. Capitol’s dome made of cast iron was designed by Thomas U. Walter and constructed from 1855-1866.
Anyways, in 1861 the main dome, allegedly looked like this.
1861
1861-capitol.jpg


Oddities
Did the Capitol Building exist prior to 1856?
Now, unless we can find something dated with 1852, 1856, and 1857 stating that the below three images "drawn from nature" are some sort of a project design, we could have a little issue with the official timing, and design.

1852
View of Washington / drawn from nature and on stone by E. Sachse ; lith. and print in colors by E. Sachse & Comp.
Bird's-eye view of Washington, D.C. looking west with the U.S. Capitol in the foreground.

Source

1852_capitol.jpg

1852_capitol_entered.jpg


1856
Panoramic view of Washington City from the new dome of the Capitol, looking west / drawn from nature by Edwd. Sachse.
Bird's-eye view of Washington, D.C. looking west with the U.S. Capitol in the foreground.

Source

1856_capitol.jpg

1856_capitol_entered.jpg



1857
Panoramic view of Washington City from the new dome of the Capitol, looking east / drawn from nature and print. in colors by E. Sachse & Co.
Bird's-eye view of Washington, D.C. looking east with the U.S. Capitol in the foreground.

Source

1857_capitol.jpg

1857_capitol_entered.jpg


Statue of Freedom
The Statue of Freedom, also known as Armed Freedom, is a bronze statue designed by Thomas Crawford (1814–1857) that, since 1863, has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Originally named Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace (why?), a U.S. government publication now states that the statue "is officially known as the Statue of Freedom". The statue depicts a female figure bearing a military helmet and holding a sheathed sword in her right hand and a laurel wreath and shield in her left.

Freedom_1.jpg

I do not know about 1863 installation date, but I can decently see it in the 1856 drawing.
kd_separator.jpg

Apart from the obvious dates mismatch, we have those little "domy" things I circled in first photograph of this post. Where are they on the "drawn from nature" images from 1856 and 1857.

1857 drawing has the resemblance of that white "peacetime" flag, which allegedly never existed. Well, at least it looks like one. Well, in this case two.

Additionally, in the 1852 and 1856 images of the Capitol Building, we ended up with the "never built" winning design of the Washington Monument. You can find more info on the Washington monument by following the link below:
unbuilt_washington_monument_3_112.jpg

This "never built" design was suspiciously present on just about every drawing pertaining to the area, no matter who the author of such a drawing was. Ain't that weird?
  • The drawing shows stables in the foreground and a view of the city of Washington from southeast, with the United States Capitol on the right, the White House in center background, and the Smithsonian castle and Washington Monument on the left.
  • Source + 1
1846?
DC_View.jpg

Below is another Washington Monument oddity, allegedly pertaining to 1862. I understand when proportions are not being followed, but see where this artist placed our Washington Monument, and compare to where it actually is today.

Wash_mon_1.jpg

Source
kd_separator.jpg

KD: Any ideas as far as what's going on here? Why the same building "drawn from nature" does not look the same every time, and when was the Capitol Building actually built?
  • Are we being told that it took them 2 years (1850-1852) to expand the entire building by adding a new chamber for the House of Representatives on the south side, and a new chamber for the Senate on the north?
  • Are we being told that it took them 11 years (1855-1866) to install the new Dome?
 

whitewave

Well-known member
Messages
1,570
Reactions
5,344
Oh my! That IS a bit of a smoking gun. There are a LOT of differences in the 1856 picture compared to the 1857 one. In 1852 there were 2 smaller domes on the roof that are absent in the later pics. There was a door/gate on the 1852 roof as well as 2 little fence "patio" areas on the tops of the east and west wing roofs that are missing in the later pics and substituted with some "A" frame addition to the roof tops. It's conceivable that there were major changes to the rooftops.
 
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
We have two completed and distinctively different main domes in 1852 vs 1856. We also have a photograph officially dated with 1861, where the dome is only being built.

Which one do we believe? For if the larger dome was built prior to 1856, what happens to the timing of the Civil War? Did it happen prior to 1856?
  • In general, however, the project progressed rapidly: the House of Representatives was able to meet in its new chamber on December 16, 1857, and the Senate first met in its present chamber on January 4, 1859. The old House chamber was later designated National Statuary Hall. In 1861, most construction was suspended because of the Civil War, and the Capitol was used briefly as a military barracks, hospital and bakery. In 1862, work on the entire building was resumed.
  • History of the U.S. Capitol Building

troops_at_capitol_1861.jpg
 

realitycheck

Active member
Messages
35
Reactions
189
Noticed same things as whitewave, just working on images... '57 painting should be older than '52 looking at details

1. Main entrance missing central stairs
2. Missing stairs on wings
3. Central colonnade different in '57 - if you zoom in you can see: double column, double column, single, single, double, double. On all others it is 8 single columns.

4. Roof on wings different
5. Besides domes, pillars on edge are missing
6. only 2 arches on sides while on other there are 4

1852-1857_capitol1.jpg

- I just edited my post when I realized that '52 image is from east side and '57 is from west side (didn't know it has two similar faces) so I striketrough points that are no more valid.
 
Last edited:
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
Do we have any photographs of the wings being actually built? So far I have only seen the dome under construction.

Looks like funding was approved in 1850 and by 1852 both wings were done with no construction sign in sight.
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
The 1852 image and the 1856 share the same base drawing as evidenced by the people in these crops.

1852.jpg
1856.jpg

Seems the artist who did the 1852 version re-did it for the 1856 or another artist copied it as the 1856 version is not as well drawn.
E. Sachse & Co. were a publishing company, if they existed at all there is next to nothing about them available online that a duckduckgo search could find anyway.
 

realitycheck

Active member
Messages
35
Reactions
189
Also looking at both '61 photo we can conclude it is shot of east side - main entrance stairs and colonnade is missing/not finished and crane like thing where columns should be. So they could say that is final stage of construction of wings - two things are weird:
1. For such an important building there should be more pictures during construction of wings and dome
2. Paintings of '52 and '56 are guess work?
 
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
I’m interested who the intentional misrepresentation was meant for, the “drawn from nature” can only mean so much. Today we have an option of easily comparing and voicing out findings and opinions. Back then you could only tell your neighbor.

Another thing is just like I said before, if the entire building with new dome and this freedom statue was completed by 1856... when did we have the Civil War?
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
I cannot figure out what was meant by 'drawn from nature' back then. Is there anywhere high enough and near enough to the capitol building for the artist to sit and draw what the eye sees as closely as his or her ability permits?
Perhaps there is no intentional misrepresentation and its us who see misrepresentation as deliberate given the things we look into more often than not are not what they appear to be.
On that bottom drawing with the misplaced monument the dome part of the capitol building is out of line with the building itself and in fact seems to sit totally behind it. The work to support the enlarged dome carried out inside the building and in the foundations/footings must have been considerable. Does the green colour suggest that the roof is made of copper sheeting?
If so it might be worth looking into when copper sheeting became 'doable' in America and where it came from perhaps this could be used to establishe
a likely date for the change of dome?
 
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
@jd755, you are pretty good at digging things out. Any luck with the wings construction photographs?
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
No haven't looked yet but here's a page full of interesting images of the thing changing. Mainstream for sure but there it is.
The Restoration of the United States Capitol Dome

Lots of history, timelines, material information and architects name and of course the obligatory mainstream tales, we see all to often. 17 submissions all rejected then up pops a single new one and this is accepted. Do 'they' only have the one routine they run in these narratives?
Historical Roofs: The United States Capitol Building Dome | Old Pro Roofing

Not a clue what to make of the images on this page. Historia y evolución de Washington DC [FOTOS] - ForoCoches
 
Last edited:
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
From the above link:
  • Hauling a fluted cast-iron column shaft for the peristyle of the Dome from the train station to the Capitol work yard in November of 1856.
B3B2E61F-B262-45DC-8947-C2A893D80BBE.jpeg

I understand why it could take them 11 years to complete the dome, but how they managed to build two wings in two years using this transportation tech is beyond my understanding.

They are building the most important structure in all of the United States. What happened to all that steam equipment they were supposed to have?
 

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
656
Reactions
1,393
I cannot figure out what was meant by 'drawn from nature' back then. Is there anywhere high enough and near enough to the capitol building for the artist to sit and draw what the eye sees as closely as his or her ability permits?
Perhaps there is no intentional misrepresentation and its us who see misrepresentation as deliberate given the things we look into more often than not are not what they appear to be.
On that bottom drawing with the misplaced monument the dome part of the capitol building is out of line with the building itself and in fact seems to sit totally behind it. The work to support the enlarged dome carried out inside the building and in the foundations/footings must have been considerable. Does the green colour suggest that the roof is made of copper sheeting?
If so it might be worth looking into when copper sheeting became 'doable' in America and where it came from perhaps this could be used to establishe
a likely date for the change of dome?
Excellent thoughts.

On the first point, the national cathedral would be approximately in this direction, although not as close as the images seem, but the bell tower is the highest point in DC. The last two times I have been up there, (the only times as an adult) it was very very overcast, and visibilty was near nil, so I can't say whether this is plausible or not.

Copper is available in its elemental form naturally. It doesn't have to be refined from ore like so many other metals. It is very ductile, hammering it into sheets would not have been a problem. Unfortunately copper will not help us to date much of anything.

Besides its conductivity, Copper has some very interesting paramagnetic properties.

 
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
4,790
Reactions
19,611
Could there be another hill on top of this “Capitol Hill” at some point back in tge day?

“Drawn from nature” has to somehow pertain to something natural. Do we have any local regradings in history?
 

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
656
Reactions
1,393
Could there be another hill on top of this “Capitol Hill” at some point back in tge day?

“Drawn from nature” has to somehow pertain to something natural. Do we have any local regradings in history?
The national cathedral was built on a hill. It isn't nearly the tallest building, but still the highest point, becasue of the hill.
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
Well didn't know that about the copper property, I do now.
Wonder why the cast iron dome never got a copper cover. I also wonder why it was painted to look like stone?

Found this drawing dated 1839 which as a slight aside, proves that people of 'the past' were skilled artists capable of recording on paper their interpretation of what they were looking at so the 'primitive' stuff we get shown is suspect to say the least.
From here Bomford, Lindsay, and Smith: The Early Vineyards of Washington, DC

capitolandpartofwashingtoncity_22796v.jpg
 

Red Bird

Well-known member
Messages
514
Reactions
1,307
No new info on the building of it, but interesting.

Inside the Capitol Dome
Inside the Capitol Dome
The walls of the iconic dome are hollow and have a secret stairway.

By all external appearances, the walls of the dome on the U.S. Capitol building are a solid marble edifice. But the shell is actually hollow, made out of metal (painted white), and supported like an iron-framed skyscraper. The tight space between the exterior facade and the interior walls contains a stairwell with 365 steps.

Up at the tip-top of the dome the stairs lead to a small room known as the Tholus. This round lookout spot is the vertical projection you see in between the circular bit of the dome and the Statue of Freedom. The government has released several photos over the years from the Tholus looking out, but there’s only one mysterious photo floating around (from Wikimedia, of all places) that shows the interior of the Tholus. Based on architectural plans from the 1860’s, it’s a simple affair, but it would still be interesting to catch a glimpse.

(I saw nothing in the article about a secret stairway)
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
From here U.S. Senate: U.S. Capitol Building
It seems there was nothing in-between the two original wings save for a wooden walkway when the British set it on fire in 1814. In essence there was no capitol building just a pair of buildings either side of a large gap. How bizarre.

In 1807, the south wing on the Capitol was completed for the House of Representatives. A wooden walkway across the vacant yard intended for the domed center building linked the House and Senate wings. This was how the Capitol appeared in August 1814, during America's second war with Great Britain, when British troops burned the Capitol and other public buildings in Washington. The exterior walls survived, but much of the interior was gutted. In 1819, the reconstructed wings of the Capitol were reopened. The center building, completed in 1826, joined the two wings.

It appears one wing took seven years to build the other nine.

By 1850, so many new states had been admitted to the Union that the House and Senate had out-grown their chambers. It was decided to enlarge the Capitol by adding grand wings to the ends of the original building. In 1851, Daniel Webster, who had served in both houses of Congress, delivered one of his famous orations at the laying of the cornerstone for the new wings. The House occupied its current chamber in 1857, and the Senate moved into its chamber in 1859.

And hows this for bizarre. War raging across the land yet enough men, money and materials to carry on with the 'iron dome'. Wonder how heavy that statue is.

During the Civil War, work continued on the new cast-iron dome, designed by Thomas U. Walter. On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom, by American artist Thomas Crawford, was placed at the top of the dome, 287 feet above the East Plaza.
 

Red Bird

Well-known member
Messages
514
Reactions
1,307
Other Government Buildings: The Capitol - Mr. Lincoln's White House

Says nothing about where the money or labor came from, but:
William O. Stoddard, soon to be a presidential secretary, recalled seeing the U.S. flag flying over the Capitol and “when a strong glare of light was thrown across the flag to make it visible, the effect was all that could be asked for at a time when so much treason was being plotted in that very building.”1. (What flag 🧐)...

When the Civil War began in April 1861, the U.S. Capitol was in the midst of a major expansion — with a truncated dome overlooking the city. As a symbol of the Union’s future, work continued on it during the war. In an interview with Union Chaplain John Eaton, the President said: “If people see the Capitol is going on, it is a sign we intend this Union shall go on.”5
 

jd755

Well-known member
Messages
1,111
Reactions
2,862
Hah this 'discovery' made me smile. A 'good friend and his elevated railway' have another 'famous' family member gracing the pages of history.
From here Capitol Dome

are more recent additions to the U.S. Capitol than its dome (1855-1866). It was designed by the Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter, who was also the architect of the House and Senate extensions. Montgomery C. Meigs, a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, was the principal superintendent of construction. Together they oversaw the creation of the Capitol Building's most memorable and remarkable feature.

Just like a Roosevelt was the man who was captain of a riverboat that miraculously travelled a river that was in the area that was being 'ripped apart' by the New Madrid earthquake and another became a US president. it's a repeating pattern in these tales of yore.

On December 16, 1854, Walter hung in his office a drawing of the U.S. Capitol as it would appear once the extensions were finished, but without the Bulfinch dome. Instead the drawing showed a new cast-iron dome with columns, pilasters, brackets, scores of windows and a crowning statue. While it was only a suggestion of what a new dome might look like, the drawing caused an immediate sensation among Congressmen and Senators who visited the Architect's office. Within 10 weeks, without committee hearings and after little debate, the House of Representatives appropriated $100,000 to begin construction of a new Capitol dome. The Senate agreed a few days later, and President Franklin Pierce signed the legislation on March 3, 1855.

So neither wing was completed and yet this drawing alone seems to have persuaded the great and the good to shell out on this great new dome. Doesn't make sense, does it?

Bulfinch's wooden dome was removed in the fall of 1856. A temporary roof was installed over the Rotunda to protect it during the construction project. A wooden scaffold standing on the Rotunda floor passed through the eye of the temporary roof and held a boom and derrick that would lift, by steam-powered engines, the ironwork into place. The steam engines were fueled by wood salvaged from the old Capitol dome.

So the old copper covered dome was gone by the autumn of 1856 and a temporary roof was up. Amazing haste considering the state of the two unfinished wings. Wonder when they got the design specs done for all the cast iron bits so the mould makers would have something to work with and presumably a schedule worked out to get the actual components cast and shipped by train to the hill.

Aah the statue was a kit, so too speak. That makes sense, just about the first bit of sense I've come across.
On December 2, 1863, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place on top of the dome amid a great celebration with military salutes.
 
Last edited:
Top