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closed in at the base of the lantern, and at a height of 203 feet above the pavement of the rotunda, by a second dome of 73 feet span.
This upper dome, lighted by openings around its base, should be richly painted. Galleries at various heights, approached by stairs between the inner and outer shells of the building, will afford easy access to all parts of the dome, and from thence will be obtained a series of most picturesque views of the interior of the rotunda, and of the beautiful surrounding scenery.
The walls of the rotunda, between the pilasters below, are decorated with eight paintings on canvas, each eighteen feet in length by twelve in height. Four of them are by the hand of Colonel John Trumbull, and illustrate the Declaration of Independence, the Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, and the Resignation of Washington, as Commander-in-chief of the Army, in 1783. These paintings were ordered by the government, at an expense of $8,000 each, and are valuable and interesting for the portraits they contain. The remaining four are, the Embarcation of the Pilgrims in the Speedwell, at Delft Haven, by Robert W. Weir; the Landing of Columbus, by John Vanderlyn; De Soto’s Discovery of the Mississippi, by William H. Powell; and the Baptism of Pocahontas, by John Gadsby Chapman. These were also ordered by Congress, and cost the government from $10,000 to $20,000 each. All these paintings have their faults, either in respect of design, perspective, or color; and yet they all have their individual merits, and are worthy of the study of the artist and connoisseur. The wall above these paintings is ornamented with panels
of arabesque in bas-relief. Four alternate panels contain heads of Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh, Cabot, and La Salle.
In panels over the four doors of the rotunda, altorelievos in stone; Penn's Treaty with the Indians, by M. Gevelot; the Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, by Causici; the Conflict of Daniel Boone with the Indians, by the same artist; and the Rescue of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas, by Capellano.
The floor of the rotunda is of freestone, and is supported by arches of brick, resting upon two concentric peristyles of forty Doric columns in the crypt below. It was the intention of Congress to place the remains of Washington in a mausoleum in the sub-basement, beneath the rotunda, to be made accessible by a spiral staircase descending from the floor. This project was abandoned in 1832, upon the passage of a resolution by the Virginia legislature, requesting the proprietors of Mount Vernon not to consent to the removal of the remains, and the declension of John A. Washington, on the ground of respect for Washington's Will, directing the disposition of his ashes and those of his family.
The Senate Chamber. In the centre of the north wing is the chamber of the Senate. Its entrance from the interior of the building is at the termination of a long corridor, extending through the rotunda, and connecting with the door of the Hall of Representatives in the south wing. The main entrance from the exterior is by the eastern portico, through a spacious vestibule, with a marble paneled ceiling, supported by sixteen coupled fluted columns, with capitals beautifully foliated with acanthus and tobacco leaves. The walls of the vestibule are set with niches for statuary.
The chamber itself is rectangular, and is 112 feet long by 82 in width, and 30 feet in height. The ceiling is entirely of cast iron, deeply paneled, with stained glass skylights, and ornamented in the richest style with foliage, pendants, and drops. The hall is surrounded by a gallery capable of seating one thousand persons. A portion of the gallery, over the chair of the Vice-President, is appropriated to reporters for the press. A section of the gallery, in front of the chair, is also reserved for the use of the diplomatic corps. The Secretary of the Senate, and his two assistants, occupy a desk immediately in front of the chair, and at the foot of this desk sit the special reporters of the debates. The seats of the Senators are ranged in three semicircular rows fronting the chair, each being supplied with a small desk standing in front of it. The walls and ceiling are painted in very high colors, and the iron-work bronzed and gilded. The chamber is lighted at night by gas, above the skylights, and is of such an even temper that it can scarcely be distinguished from daylight. The galleries are reached by magnificent marble staircases at either end of the hall, ceiled with ornamental iron-work, and lighted by stained glass skylights. These staircases, and those corresponding in the south wing, are the most striking points of architecture in the extension. The Senate chamber is surrounded by a corridor, which separates it from the Secretary's office and committee-rooms ranged around the outer walls of the wing.
Immediately in the rear of the chair is the Senators' Retiring Room, 38 by 21 feet, and 194 in height. This is one of the gems of the building. The ceiling is of white marble, deeply paneled, and supported by four
fluted columns of highly polished Italian marble. The walls are of Tennessee marble, in which are set huge plate-glass mirrors, serving for panels.
Adjoining the retiring-room, on the west, is the President's Room, which he occupies when attending to business in Congress. It is a square room, beautifully ceiled with frescoed representations, typical of the history of the country. On the walls, which are superbly decorated with arabesques in secco, are to be seen portraits of the first President and his Cabinet, executed by Costantino Brumidi.
The Vice-President's Room adjoins the retiring-room on the east, and is also highly ornamented, and contains a large portrait of Washington, by Rembrandt Peale. The Reception Room and Senate Post Office are entered from the vestibule, and are also beautiful apartments, with walls decorated in secco painting, and gilded and frescoed ceilings.
Two staircases leading to the basement, are ornamented with richly-foliated bronze railings, decorated with figures of the eagle, the deer, and Cupids. The basement contains a suite of committee-rooms, mostly ornamented in fresco and distemper, in the Italian and Pompeian styles. The corridors are exquisitely ornamented in distemper, by Signor Brumidi; the designs in arabesque and panel-work being taken from the loggia of Raphael and the ruins of Pompeii. These minutely-finished paintings embody illustrations of the natural history of America, the ornithology being mostly painted from the life. The corridors and rooms of both stories are paved with encaustic tiles laid in mosaic, after the choicest patterns of Pompeian and modern design, and are lighted by gorgeous bronze chandeliers.
The Hall of Representatives.—This hall is in the centre of the south wing, and is situated precisely like the Senate chamber, but larger in its proportions, and more gaudily painted and ornamented. It is 139 feet long, 93 feet wide, and 30 feet high, with a gallery running entirely around the hall, affording seats for 1,200 persons. Sections of the gallery are railed off for the especial use of the diplomatic corps and the reporters for the press. The reporters for the government have a desk directly below the chair of the Speaker. The elaborate ceiling of iron, supported by trusses from the roof, is paneled with glass to light the hall, each panel being ornamented by the arms of a State, represented in stained glass. The casting for the ceilings for both halls of Congress, is the work of Janes, Beebe & Co. The painting was done by German and Italian artists. The hall is surrounded by a corridor, outside of which is a range of committee-rooms, and offices of the Clerk of the House. The Speaker's Room is immediately in the rear of his chair, across the private lobby, and is highly decorated with mirrors and paintings, as are all the principal rooms in this wing. The main entrance from the portico will be occupied by double doors of bronze, richly ornamented with historical representations in bas-relief, designed by Rogers, and cast in Munich. Adjoining the grand colonnaded vestibule of the entrance from the eastern portico, is the House Post Office. The ascent to the gallery is by two grand marble staircases at the ends of the hall, like those in the Senate wing. There are also two staircases descending from the southern lobby of the House into the basement, with bronze railings of the same pattern as those in the north wing.