Monday, May 5, 2014

A Capitol Tour

So one of the must-do's on our list for our D.C. trip was to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol building.  I had not been inside since I was a young teen, and quite frankly, I guess I did not appreciate the experience because I do not remember much about it.  I do recall that we did get to sit in while the House and Senate were in session, and I do not recall there being nearly as much security.  If my memory serves me, I don't think we were able to see the main Capitol Rotunda and dome so that was on my list to see.  Unfortunately, I must be bad luck or something because we still were not able to see the Rotunda because the dome is undergoing repairs.  Apparently, it was not properly supported all those years ago when it was originally built (an important architectural point when designing a large and very heavy marble dome) so it was losing structural integrity.  Yikes!  Yes, we are happy they are doing what they have to do to save the dome, but I just wanted one little peek into the room.  Sigh.  What we did manage to accomplish this trip was contacting our House Representative (my brother's employer actually) to schedule a personal tour.  You do not have to go this route, and there are always public tours of the Capitol, but those tours do involve following a large group and waiting in a lot of lines and not seeing some treasures that are not on the main tour.  The Capitol tour guides are very informed though and will provide you with a lot of information.  Our tour was given by one of our Congressman's aides with just one other family from Charlotte.  Our tour guide had learned some interesting little facts to share with us but didn't overload us with an entire history book of information.  I think that worked best for our family with young kids.  Evan especially enjoyed the little ghost story he told.  Even though I didn't get to see the artwork of the Capitol Rotunda (mainly the large painting of George Washington on the dome entitled "The Apotheosis of Washington"), I did  enjoy the other artwork of the Capitol artist Constantino Brumidi.


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Our tour of the Capitol actually began inside the building as we walked through the underground tunnel between the legislative office buildings and the main Capitol complex, but I thought it made more sense to show the outside of the building first.   

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The boys and I enjoyed walking around the Capitol building although walking all the way down the National Mall afterwards to get to our next destination was a bit more than we bargained for.  

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Daddy and his boys

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This picture is deceiving.  These statues of Lady Liberty are exactly the same size and everything.  The outside one sits atop the Capitol dome.  The inside white one is the mold that the original bronze statute was made from.  It has been put on display in the new Capitol Visitor Center.  

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On the steps of the Capitol

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Future politicians shaking hands? 

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The backside of the Capitol is the prettier side with a lovely view overlooking the National Mall green space and the Washington, D.C. which should have a sign warning "Objects are not as close as they appear."  It is a pretty good hike from the Capitol to the Washington Monument!  

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And one of my three handsome boys. 

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A pretty fountain in the courtyard.  Yes, Brody pretty much wanted to get into every fountain or pool of water we saw despite the cold temperatures.  

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I had a tight grip on him here. 


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We began our adventure at our Congressman's office. 

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The boys must have a picture in front of their state flag. 
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Our Congressman's office

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While waiting for our tour to begin, the boys enjoyed a little rough housing in the halls of government.  Ha! 

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Then a legislative aide in another office gave them a cool rubber band ball to play with.  Apparently, this is what legislative aides do for fun!  

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Sitting in the Congressman's chair. 

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Doesn't he have a great smile for a politician?  I mean, who couldn't trust that face? 

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Brody was looking at Congressman Pittenger's Bible.  I had to explain to Evan why he has an elephant in his office.  Gotta love politics! 

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This is the dome in the rotunda of the House building.  

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You may recognize this spot as where your Representatives give statements to the press. 

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Evan is ready for his special tour.  

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This is where most public tours start instead of in the Representative's office. 

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Getting a family picture with the giant statue in the Capitol Visitor Center. 

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Looking out for peace and justice. 

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Brody wanted his picture taken with the Astronaut.  Every state gets to pick certain statues to display in the Capitol so Colorado sent this one of their Apollo 13 hero.  I think it is the only statue on display that has color on it.   
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This is the room where the first Supreme Court Justices heard cases.  

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The room has been used for many things through the years but has now been fitted with its original furnishings so visitors can see where the nation's first Supreme Court ruled.  

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This picture is tied to the "ghost" story.  Apparently, the Capitol is haunted by a ghost cat who left its footprints in the concrete floor here.  The rumor is that every time the cat is spotted, a national tragedy strikes (Presidential assassinations, 9/11, etc.).   I circled the footprints. 

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I thought these ornate tiled floors were pretty.  

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This is an interesting painting technique.  Doesn't it look like a three dimensional frieze sculpture? 
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The Senate Corridors

While the House side of the Capitol has pretty bland corridors with simple marble floors and columns, the Senate side definitely has more for the eyes.  These are the Brumidi corridors showcasing the all of the artist's Capitol artwork.  I like that it tells so much of the history of the country.  What a great way to tell our nation's story!  

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Here it is mostly just ornately painted walls and ceilings.  

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Above every door on the hall, there is a painting like this one of some great historical event in our nation's history.  This one shows the first moon expedition in 1969.  

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This is the only event depicted that is not a celebrated achievement or happy event, and it took a special Act of Congress to be included.  It depicts the astronauts from the Challenger shuttle disaster.  
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The rooms were labeled with their original purpose like this one with a painting of a scene related to that purpose.  

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The ever important Senate Appropriations room where important decisions about money and budgets are made. 

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Evan found one of North Carolina's statues which also happened to be Governor Charles B. Aycock, also known as the "education governor." (Mommy went to the high school named after him at his birthplace).  

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There is another interesting story behind this bust of Lincoln who is known as the Architect of the Capitol in the Capitol Crypt.  The bust was carved by the same artist who designed the sculptures at Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain, Georgia.  It is carved from a single block of marble, is four times life-sized, and has been highly praised for capturing the true essence of Lincoln.  However, the statue does appear to be missing one important piece...AN EAR!  One story says that the artist purposely left off the ear to make a statement  about Lincoln's dual personalities.  He said that he wanted the right side to draw attention to the stronger right side of Lincoln's face.  The more plausible explanation for the missing ear, however, is that Borglum chopped off too much marble on that side and didn't leave enough for the ear.  At least, that's what we read in the museum at the Lincoln Memorial.  

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More paintings of Burmidi depicting American History and how we grew as a nation. 

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My sweet silly boys in the halls of government. 

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After a busy morning touring the Capitol and soaking in the history, we enjoyed eating at this little treasure on Capitol Hill. And that was only the first half of one of our days!  Whew, what a day!
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  1. I love the picture of the boys shaking hands. Just precious! I have never been to the capitol. I had no idea that it was such a beautiful building. And to think of all the people who have walked up and down those halls...amazing!

    1. Definitely a lot of history in those halls! I am a bit of a history fanatic so I love it! I think another city I would like to visit one day for its rich American history is Philadelphia...and maybe Boston. :-)

  2. Fantastic. Just fantastic.

    I think I told you that my parents took us to D.C. for about 2 weeks when I was about 10 or 11. I remember certain parts of that trip but not as much as I wish I did. It is definitely a place I would like to travel with my kids in the future.

    It's very cool that you got a semi-private tour. Definitely the way to go with youg kids.

    1. Oh the things we undervalue as kids. Haha! I was a little older than that on my trip to D.C., and I still don't really recall a lot of the experience. I know Evan and Brody definitely won't remember a lot of the experience although I hope the pictures will help. I know we'll make other trips when they are older. Yes, I definitely recommend contacting your Congressman if you are ever planning a trip. :-)

  3. I love that you got a personal tour -- that is so cool! And I LOVE that picture of the boys shaking hands. I'm sorry there was so much walking involved for you; that sounds fairly miserable.

    And I think I've been to the Capitol building but I don't remember a lot about it.

    1. I really should have explained that the hand holding picture was a bit of a flashback/comparison because I have a picture of my brother and I doing the same thing on those steps. The walking wouldn't have been so miserable if a cold front hadn't just come through and given us unseasonably cold weather for the trip. I developed a terrible cold and the worst dry chapped lips. Ugh. Besides that, the walking isn't so bad since there is a lot to see. :-)


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