Construction History

Workmen began digging foundations for the U.S. Capitol in August 1793. President George Washington laid the Capitol's cornerstone on September 18, 1793, during the first public ceremony held in the young city. When the speeches were finished, the crowd feasted on a 500-pound barbequed ox. Construction was soon hampered by labor and money shortages. Funds were mainly derived from the sale of city lots, which were sluggish. At first there were not enough builders living in the sparsely populated area. Stone carvers had to be recruited from Scotland and soon joined other immigrant laborers and craftsmen. Additional labor was provided by slaves, whose owners were paid five dollars a month. By American standards the Capitol was an immense and elaborate building. Expenses overwhelmed the city's meager resources, forcing the commissioners to seek loans from Dutch banks and the Maryland legislature. In 1795 it was decided to forego two-thirds of the building and finish only the north wing for the time being. Congress occupied the north wing in November 1800, and has been meeting in the city of Washington ever since.