Capitol Visitor Center Overview

The Capitol Visitor Center was built to provide a welcoming and educational environment for visitors to learn about the unique characteristics of the House and the Senate and the legislative process as well as the history of the Capitol. It is the newest and largest addition to the Capitol, covering 580,000 square feet -- all of it underground. The idea for a visitor center began in the 1970s but funding for a conceptual design was not provided until 1991. Further studies and redesigns were undertaken in 1995 and 1999. Construction began in August 2002, and it opened on December 2, 2008. The overall project cost was approximately $600 million. Construction of the Visitor Center required the removal of over 60,000 truckloads of soil. Today, the public areas of the Capitol Visitor Center features a beautiful 530-seat dining facility, Exhibition Hall and educational displays, 26 restrooms, two gift shops, 24 statues from the National Statuary Collection, the full-scaled plaster model used to cast the Statue of Freedom, and two orientation theaters.