Capitol Building Overview

As the home of the legislative branch of government, the United States Capitol is the working symbol of the democratic promise. Here the Senate and the House of Representatives come together to discuss, debate and deliberate national policy; develop consensus; and craft the country's laws. As the nation has grown so has the Capitol building: today it covers well over 1.5 million square feet, has over 600 rooms, and miles of corridors. It is crowned by a magnificent white dome that overlooks the city of Washington and has become a widely recognized icon of the American people and government. The Capitol's design was selected by President George Washington in 1793 and construction was begun shortly thereafter. It took 33 years to complete the original building, which stoodonly 25 years before major additions were begun. More enlargements were constructed in the 1880s and 1950s. The Capitol Visitor Center, the building's latest and largest addition, was completed in 2008. The United States Senate occupies the northern half of the U.S. Capitol Building. Its rectangular chamber is located on the second, or principal, floor of the northern extension and is surrounded by ornate lobbies, offices and committee rooms. Its former chamber is located in the old north wing, the Capitol's oldest portion. The House of Representatives occupies the southern half of the Capitol. Since 1857 it has met in its current chamber located in the center of the south wing. The former meeting place of the House, now used as National Statuary Hall, occupies the upper floors of the old south wing, which is the Capitol second oldest section.