National Geographic : 1964 Jan
Leafy scroll once bore its sandstone flowers in the open air of the east portico. When Congress enlarged the Capitol in 1958-61, the old outside wall was preserved intact within the new addi tion. Builders left an opening in a corridor panel to display the battered old stones. Ex tension added two and a half acres of floor space-enough for 102 rooms. Most visitors come first to the vast central Rotunda, passing through Randolph Rogers's superbly sculptured doors. These 10-ton bronze portals-modeled in Rome, cast in Munich, and installed at the main east en trance in 1871-depict scenes from the life of Columbus, whose voyages started it all. From the Rotunda, many sightseers take the official tour conducted by Capitol guides. Others wander on their own through statue lined corridors and rooms of the House and Senate wings. Guided tours include a stop in the debating chambers. Individual visitors need passes, which are gladly provided by Members of Congress on request. Aside from private lobbies and offices near Senate and House Chambers, few spots of historic interest are closed to the public. In the Senate Reception Room, a lushly dec orated chamber at the east end of the main Senate lobby, Members of the Senate meet friends and constituents (page 38). The President's Room, on the opposite side, can be seen only when the Senate is not in session. It is well worth a special trip to look in at its ornate decor and the Victorian table on which many Presidents signed last-minute bills passed by Congress (page 53). Two of the most fascinating rooms in the Capitol-one above the other in the original Senate wing-were used in turn by the Sen ate and the United States Supreme Court, between 1800 and 1935. Now off limits for tourists, but proposed for restoration and fu ture exhibit, these rooms saw many momen tous events in the Nation's life (pages 56-7). On the House side, visitors look for their state heroes in Statuary Hall, where the House met from 1807 until its present wing was oc cupied in 1857. Here, in assorted poses and costumes, stand 47 bronze and marble figures presented by states in memory of distin guished citizens (pages 14-17). Thirty-nine others are displayed elsewhere, moved out because of their crushing weight. Still incomplete, this national hall of fame originated in 1864, when Congress asked that each state choose two outstanding deceased persons to be honored by a statue in the for mer House Chamber. The abandoned room was at that time "draped in cobwebs and car peted with dust, tobacco, and apple pomace," as one Congressman remarked. Where great statesmen of the past sat, said another, "I see a huckster woman selling gingerbread." Feminine Quartet Graces Hall of Fame Cleared and renovated, Statuary Hall re ceived its first contribution in 1870-a marble figure of the Revolutionary hero Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. Thirty-five years passed before a woman made the statuary team. She was Frances E. Willard of Illinois, President of the National and World's Woman's Christian Temperance Unions, and frequent contributor to 19th-cen tury newspapers and magazines. Three more women have joined the states' honor corps in the past six years: Minnesota educator Maria Sanford, Colorado research biologist Florence Rena Sabin, and Wyo ming's Esther Hobart Morris, crusader to make her state first to vote woman suffrage, which it did in 1869 while still a territory. Among the states' favorite sons and daugh ters are Colonial governors and modern-day scientists. Oklahoma chose a humorist-Will Rogers, who wanted to be where he could "keep an eye on Congress"-and an Indian sage, Sequoya, who developed the Cherokee alphabet. Virginia predictably selected George Washington and Robert E. Lee.