National Geographic : 1952 Aug
149 National Geographic Photographer Willard It. Culver An Artist Sitting on the Platform-supported Canvas Cleans a Rotunda Painting Marie Kalnoky freshens "The Surrender of General Burgoyne," one of four documentary pictures made by John Trumbull especially for the Capitol (pages 154, 156, 157, and 177). Trumbull (1756-1843), who drew on his own Revolutionary experiences, had the additional advantage of painting his heroes in the flesh. Curiously, the original design for this build ing-the only one submitted that met George Washington's specifications for "grandeur, simplicity, and convenience"-was the work of an amateur architect. Dr. William Thorn ton, who won $500 and a city lot for his entry in the Capitol competition of 1792, was a physician by training. Brilliant and versatile, Dr. Thornton turned out his classically based design with as much ease, apparently, as he dashed off poetry, painted portraits, and experimented with steamboats and speech for the deaf. Talented professionals-notably Benjamin H. Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch, and Thomas U. Walter-made their contributions as Capi tol Architects. Despite disputes and setbacks, they tailored and merged the various elements and additions into the present structure. But the record also gives credit for the over all success of the work to the guiding role of other amateurs in architecture-the successive Presidents of the United States. Both Washington and Jefferson had a direct hand not only in making broad decisions af fecting the building's design, but in such prac tical measures as importing hard-to-find skilled masons, carpenters, and sculptors. So closely was Jefferson associated with plans for the Capitol that he has been erro neously credited with certain of its more origi nal designs. It seemed logical, for example, to attribute Latrobe's charming and unusual cornstalk and tobacco decorations at the head of some of the interior columns to Monticello's master of the ingenious gadget (page 170).* Oldest section of the Capitol is the rec tangular north wing, now the connecting link between the central Rotunda and the big Sen ate extension (chart, pages 174-175). * See "Mr. Jefferson's Charlottesville," by Anne Revis, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1950.