National Statuary Hall

For 50 years (1807-1857) the House of Representatives met in a large semicircular room that was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in the old south wing. A Corinthian colonnade 96 feet in diameter was made of Potomac marble shafts with white Italian marble capitals holding a sandstone entablature. The original domed ceiling was wood painted with imitation coffers, but was replaced in 1900 with the present plaster dome. Members originally sat at tables and desks positioned on a tiered platform facing the Speaker's rostrum while visitors were accommodated in a spacious gallery overlooking the chamber. After the House began meeting in its new chamber in 1857, this room was informally used by vendors selling everything from gingerbread to mousetraps. To preserve it and give it a new purpose, Congressman Justine Morrill wrote legislation to convert the former Hall of the House into a gallery for the display of commemorative statuary given by the states. The legislation passed in 1864, the current marble floor was installed soon thereafter, and the first state statue was placed in the room in 1870.