The Recreation of a Masterpiece

One of the best features of the Capital Building in Washington is definitely the Capitol Dome. Standing at a majestic 288 ft in height, it has a diameter of 96 ft. This dome was the design of Thomas U Walter, who was also the fourth architect of the Capitol. The Dome was made between the decade 1855 and 1866 at what was then and perhaps even now an astronomical price.

The dome you see today is not the first one that was made. This first one was the result of a Capitol design contest which came about on the request of President George Washington. Dr. William Thornton was the winner of this contest and he had created his design with inspiration from the Roman Pantheon and its neo-classical design. But he never got a chance to bring his vision to life. In his place came Benjamin Henry Latrobe who was meant to work on the dome, but spent a great deal of time repair and reworking the north and south wings of the Capitol that he passed away without working on it. In his place came the Third Architect of the Capitol, Charles Bulfinch. Though he did start work on it, an oversight on his part led to the dome growing much bigger than it was anticipated.

The structure stood this way for 20 years, during which the country continued to expand and the number of people occupying and working out of the Capitol rose exponentially. It then fell on the 5th architect of the Capitol Thomas U Walter to work on the extensions of the north and the southern wings of the building. The result led to the dome looking rather unsightly in terms of aesthetics and after a great deal of lobbying, permission was granted for the creation of a new one.

Plans for the new dome came about in May 1854. It was made aesthetically well and features such as a fire-proof utility were also added. Thomas made sure to pay particular attention to architectural works such as that of the Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica and more in the revamping of his design. It took 11 years for the design and construction to come together and finally on December 2nd of 1863, the statue of Freedom was placed atop the dome. Before this was done though, the design had to be altered a bit to take on the statue and this was done.