For over two centuries, the capital of America has been located in Washington, D.C., and among all the iconic landmarks and monuments associated with the city, nothing is as conspicuous as the Capitol, the magnificent building that houses Congress and sits on Capitol Hill at the epicenter of the city. At the same time, even though the Capitol is now one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the image everyone is familiar with took decades to achieve, and its grand scope belies its rather chaotic history. In fact, the Capitol was partially burned by the British during the War of 1812, and its now famous dome was still under construction while the nation fought itself during the Civil War. Moreover, it's easy to forget that the expansion of the country resulted in the addition of new Congressmen, requiring the expansion of the Capitol as the seat of the legislative branch.
The history of the Capitol also serves as a reminder that the building, like the nation, both shapes and is shaped by history. There are still singed walls from the War of 1812 under the marble façade, and microscopic examination could no doubt find cracks from the vibration of distant cannon fire during the Civil War. Of course, there is no way to calculate the wear and tear caused by the millions of feet that trudge through the Capitol's sacred halls each year, but through it all, the Capitol has managed to endure, just like the nation it represents.
The United States Capitol Building: The History and Legacy of the Seat of Congress looks at the winding history of the building and how it has changed over time.
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