Washington DC – Visiting The Capitol

UP to the present time, good judges have estimated, the Capitol has had expended upon it not much less than fifty millions of dollars. Its works of art and the interior decorations and improvements have cost millions, and an enormous amount of money has been expended upon the laying out and ornamentation of the grounds. The annual cost of caring for the Capitol is very large. Even to light it and the grounds requires the yearly expenditure of $25,000 and the yearly compensation of its engineers, firemen, laborers, and other employes will aggregate nearly one hundred thousand dollars. The special Capitol police are paid $36,600 per year. There are thirty police-men, commanded by a captain and three lieutenants. They preserve order, protect the public property, and give information to visitors. The architect of the Capitol receives a salary of $4.500, and his office is provided with several well-paid employes. The building is open daily from 9 A. M. until 5 P. M., and in the evening whenever Congress has a night-session. Then the lantern on the dome is lighted, and the light can be seen from every part of Washington, shining like a great brilliant star in the heavens.

A VISIT to the Capitol is not complete without ascending the dome and taking the wonderful and charming view from the top of this mighty iron globe. It is a toilsome ascent, and when the balustrade above the peristyle is reached, many people are content to stop at this point, where the view is exceedingly beautiful. But here the dome only really begins, and those who persevere in the ascent, and finally arrive at the summit just below the lantern on which the figure of liberty rests, will be amply repaid for all their toil. Here is a circular landing with a strong balustrade, from which can be viewed at an elevation of about three hundred feet, the city of Washington, the Potomac River, and the hills and valleys of the District of Columbia and the states of Maryland and Virginia for many miles. No words can express the grandeur of this scene. The city is sharply outlined on all sides, each prominent building standing out in high relief. Murmurs of its busy life come faintly to the ear, but on its broad streets, filled with innumerable moving things, no motion is apparent. You know that thousands of changes are being made each moment, but you cannot perceive the slightest movement anywhere, although you can look from end to end of the thoroughfares. To the west, beyond the city, the hills of Georgetown and of Arlington rise blue and misty, with fields beyond fields spreading out to meet the sky. Along the Virginia shore the silver thread of the Potomac can be seen stretching far to the southward in sparkling loveliness, till it is hidden by jutting banks. The green plateau of the Soldiers’ Home stands out boldly to the north-ward, and seemingly within easy distance is Howard University, on the brow of its high hill. Fertile plains, rising into wooded heights, are to the east and south, and directly downward are the streets and buildings of Capitol Hill, the ships of war in the Navy Yard, and the waters of the Anacostia. It is a sight long to be treasured in the memory, and ever recalled with delight.

From the dome one is enabled to obtain a better realization of the solidity of the Capitol than from the ground below. The massive edifice, composed of marble, sandstone, and iron, is spread out directly to the eye, and its huge proportions are clearly revealed in all their strength and grand symmetry. One can see that faithful, honest work has been done in constructing this greatest and most beautiful of American edifices — work that will certainly bear the test of time. Every part of the Capitol has a very substantial appearance, and looking at it from the elevation afforded by the great iron sphere, no one can fail to be impressed with its solidity. Around the ” tholus” of lantern of the dome are placed numerous electric lights, which have a greater elevation than any similar lights in the country. They illuminate the dome at night in a magnificent manner. A large electric light, with a strong reflector, is placed at the base of the dome on the western side, and this light each evening casts its powerful rays far up Pennsylvania Avenue.