History of the United States Capitol: A Chronicle of Design, by William C. Allen

By William C. Allen

CONTENTS record of Illustrations Foreword-Alan M. Hantman Preface bankruptcy 1. GRANDEUR at the POTOMAC bankruptcy 2. JEFFERSON AND LATROBE bankruptcy three. DESTRUCTION AND recovery, 1814-1817 bankruptcy four. THE BULFINCH YEARS, 1818-1829 bankruptcy five. AN UNSETTLED TIME, 1830-1850 bankruptcy 6. THOMAS U. WALTER AND THE CAPITOL EXTENSION bankruptcy 7. CAPTAIN M. C. MEIGS, ENGINEER responsible bankruptcy eight. satisfaction AND STRIFE bankruptcy nine. CALM AND CALAMITY bankruptcy 10. THE CLARK YEARS, 1865-1902 bankruptcy eleven. CIVIC advancements bankruptcy 12. perspectives OF background Notes Bibliography Index

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Then the competition had brought in a bewildering hodgepodge of designs more suited for county courthouses than for the nation’s Capitol. Fortunately, the competition for the President’s House fared better when a design by James Hoban, an Irish born architect from Charleston, was selected. The Capitol competition closed in the summer of 1792 without a winning design. Another building season was lost. THE CONFERENCE PLAN: AN UNEASY COMPROMISE t the end of August 1792, President Washington went to Georgetown to attend a commissioners’ meeting.

Samuel Dobie’s Palladian design, for example, contained a Senate chamber 53 feet square, over double the size desired. The largest chamber, given in James Diamond’s “Plan No. 4,” was 44 feet wide by 96 feet long, with an area of 4,224 square feet, or about three and a half times the space wanted. The men who submitted designs for the Capitol were as varied as the country itself. Two were veterans of General Burgoyne’s army, one was a school teacher from upstate New York, one was a prominent builder and furniture maker from New England, one would later become mayor of Baltimore, another was a builder and politician, two were carpenters, three were master builders, one was a territorial judge, and one was a businessman.

Brick, of course, had been specified in the newspaper advertisement and was the material most often used for buildings of the best sort in the region. The expense of stone and the general lack of stone workers limited its use to the trim for brick buildings. While dressed stone buildings were not unheard of, they were exceedingly rare. The idea of using stone for the Capitol, however, had been under discussion at least since March 1792, when Jefferson recalled a conversation between the president and a Mr.

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