Even 33% sounds pretty pathetic!!
Partly because the elected men and women in both the Senate and the House
of Representatives have recently hit a collective low point in job
satisfaction ratings by the American public, we wanted to
learn more about the inside workings of our government by touring the U.S. Capitol.
Ironically, polls also show that most voters approve of their
Senator or Representative; it's all those other Senators
and Representatives who aren't doing their jobs! <wink>
West side of the stately U.S. Capitol Building
Guess we're kind of in that category, too. We have a lot of respect
for our own Representative. So when we decided it'd be a good idea to tour the Capitol Building while
we were in D.C., we contacted her office to arrange a
personal tour of the humongous building.
That was a good plan. In fact, there was so much to see and learn that
we'd like to do it again.
WHY DO THAT??
There are advantages to having a personalized tour of just about
any place, including the Capitol.
Anyone who can pass security can show up and tour the Capitol
Building for free in a
guided tour but you might have to wait a while in line on a busy day, you'll
probably be in a rather large group, and you won't see as much inside
the building as you will with a member of your Congressperson's staff.
The line for generic tours begins in the Visitor
If you want a smaller, more personalized tour you can contact
your preferred Senator's or Representative's office and make an appointment.
That's what we did.
Jim called our Representative's congressional office and
made an appointment for a weekday morning the week of July 4. The upsides
were being the only two people on the guided tour, which lasted two
hours, and getting to see the Representative's office in the nearby
The downside was that -- during the holiday week -- all the Congressmen
and women were gone so we didn't get to meet our Representative.
One good reason to like our Representative is her fiscal responsibility, both
personally and as our representative in Congress.
You're probably aware that Washington, D.C. is one of the most
expensive cities in the country to rent or own property. Many
Congressmen and women not only maintain a home in their own state, they
also rent or buy a place for the (rather few) days they are in D.C. That
can get mighty expensive.
When we met our Representative's staff in her outer office before our tour began,
we also got to see her inner office. She not only works there,
she also sleeps there overnight when she is in town. She has
beautiful paneled walls with storage, a professional-looking desk and
furniture, and a comfy leather sleeper sofa -- very
We really enjoyed our tour and learned even more about the history
and workings of Congress than we already knew. The enthusiastic intern
who showed us around gave us all kinds of interesting information and we
got to go some places where folks in the large, generic tours don't go.
Here are some of the photos I took of the interior and exterior of
the Capitol Building.
One of the insights we got during our tour was how much walking
Senators, Representatives, and their staff members have to do on Capitol Hill!
Not only is the Capitol Building massive in size, the distance that
many Congress-people have to walk from their offices to their House and
Senate chambers, committee and caucus rooms, and other places is also massive.
They also have to contend with crowds of visitors in the summer:
The National Statuary Hall was
pretty crowded when we were there.
It took a while
to walk through the underground passageways from
the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol
Building. We also had to go through security again (first time was
entering the Rayburn Building) and wear a badge indicating
whose office was sponsoring us.
Before our grand tour the intern led us through the exhibition hall
and watched an interesting 13-minute
movie with us in a theater adjacent to the visitor center.
Above and below: a large
plaster replica of the bronze Statue of Freedom
on top of the Capitol dome is
located in the visitor center.
Among other things, we saw the original Supreme Court chambers,
the Senate chambers used prior to 1859, the rotunda, the balcony where
new presidents give their inaugural addresses (nice view west to the
Washington Monument from there),
Looking out from the balcony, with July 4th concert
stage on the grass
and the old and current Senate chambers. This is the old Senate chamber:
I was able to take photos in some locations but not others. Both the
Senate and House chambers that are currently used were open to the
public while we were there because the
members weren't in town. Those are two places where I couldn't take
The large Rotunda in
the center of the second floor is a highlight of any tour of the U.S.
I love all the large
paintings, statues, mosaic tile designs in the floor, and historical
sculptured frieze surrounding the upper portion of the dome:
In the eye of the rotunda, 180 feet above the floor, is the "Apotheosis
of Washington," painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi.
most of the design this summer while restoration work is being done on
the interior and exterior of the dome:
link shows the entire painting in the ceiling.
Here are a few other interesting architectural details inside the
Capitol Building that I photographed during our tour:
columns in the first-floor Crypt, built in 1827
rotunda in the old Senate wing
Intricate mosaic floor tile
You can learn much more about the buildings and art on Capitol Hill on
We walked around or near the Capitol Building on two different days.
On July 1 a large grandstand, other structures, and fencing were
being erected on the west side of the building for a big July 4 concert.
After the Fourth crews were dismantling the structures.
This very large building looks impressive from all sides. Here are
three of them:
"Capitol Hill" really is
on a hill. This is the view from the south.
The east side of the Capitol has
a smaller reflecting pool than the west side facing the National Mall.
Statue of Freedom tops the Capitol
This view shows the west side of
the Capitol Building across a larger reflecting pool.
The reflecting pool and plaza
with statues on the west side of the Capitol were all decked
out for the Fourth of July.
Looking west, we could see the Washington Monument.
Another visitor took our picture
in front of the reflecting pool.
Approaching the west side of the
Arrow points to the balcony where
presidents give their inaugural address.
I took photos from there during
our tour; one of them is farther up this page.
When we came out the east side of the U.S. Capitol after our tour I
took this photo of the current Supreme Court building but we didn't go
over to it:
We highly recommend everyone do a guided tour of the Capitol. It's
ironic that so many foreigner visitors have seen it but millions of
Americans never have.
Wear comfortable shoes and drink/eat before the tour because you
can't take food or beverages inside the building. There is a public
cafeteria in the visitor lobby. Since we were with a Congress member's
staff person, we were able to eat in the staff cafeteria after our tour.
Next entry: self-tour through the indoor and
outdoor gardens at the U.S. Botanic Gardens
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil