Thursday, November 29, 2012

Library of Congress & Capitol Building

After visiting Tom, Frank, and Marty, we made our way to the Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol building. Both things we again missed 3 years ago.

Our first stop was to the Library of Congress. It was the most elaborate library I've been too. It's also been the most difficult to access the actual "library". The Library of Congress is open to tours in part of the building and had 3 exhibits going on, but where the actual volumes and volumes of books are, is concealed and prohibited to anyone without permission and written documentation.



However, here are some fun facts about the Library of Congress:
  • Library of Congress was established under 2nd President John Adams in 1800 with $5,000 to be housed in the new Capitol building

  • August 1814, the British troops set fire to to Capitol building  thus burning and pillaging the library of it's books

  • Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950 in January 1815 and about 1/3rd of his original collection survives today.
 
  • Ainsworth Spofford, Librarian of Congress was responsible for the Copyright Law of 1870 which required all copyright applicants to send the Library 2 copies of their work for record.
 
  • New Library of Congress was opened in Nov. 1, 1897 and hailed as "the largest, the costliest, and the safest" library building in the world and was completed on time and under budget (that is an amazing feat compared to businesses and government today).

  • 75 feet above the marble floor are stained glass skylights shaped like suns inscribed with the four cardinal points of the compass and 12 brass inlays  representing the signs of the zodiac.

  • In the east corridor are 2 Library treasures- the Giant Bible of Mainz Germany and the Gutenberg Bible. Both produced in the mid 1450s, the Gutenberg Bible is one of three perfect vellum copies in existence.

Next we ventured to the U.S. Capitol building.

Similar to the Library, most parts of building are prohibited from visitors unless you have a pass or a pre-planned and registered tour. So our family only gained access to the Emancipation Hall, and the cafeteria... which actually became our 'time out' location for a very fussy Sophie and a 'lunch room' for a very hungry Connor.


Otherwise, here are some fun facts about the U.S. Capitol building:
  • Emancipation Hall was completed in 2007 to recognized contributions of enslaved laborers who build the Capitol.
 
  • Some of the statues in the Emancipation Hall include Helen Keller (activist for disabled), King Kamehameh I of Hawaii (unified Hawaiian islands), Jeannette Rankin (first woman elected to Congress), Maria Sanford (activist for women's rights), Julius Morton (founder of Arbor Day), and William Borah (created Dept of Labor and Children's Bureau)  to name a few. Most of these people I didn't recognize. 
 
  • In the middle is the original plaster model for the bronze Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome. Model is 19.5 feet and weighs 13,000 lbs.


  • During the War of 1812 the British troops burned the Capitol (and the White House), but the Capitol's exterior walls survived but the interior was gutted.

By the time we finished, the kids were tired of sightseeing, we were tired of the kid's being cranky, and we decided we'd seen enough of D.C. for one day.


Combined with all the things we saw 3 years ago (National Mall, Smithsonians, Aquarium, etc...) we are in pretty good shape for at least seeing all the major tourist attractions or 'must see' in Washington D.C. However, I'm sure that should we ever return to D.C. again, we will find many more things to see and do.

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