Hayward’s United States Gazetteer (1853) page 612

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. and distant from the Atlantic, via the river and
the Chesapeake Bay, about 290 miles.

It was at the suggestion of General Washing-
ton that this particular site for the federal city
was fixed upon. The ground on which it stands
was ceded to the United States by the state of
Maryland on the 23d December, 1788. The city
is laid out on a magnificent plan, including 5000
acres, or over 8 square miles, sufficient to accom-
modate a million of inhabitants or more. The
extent of this plan, which has caused Washington
to be called a city of “ magnificent distances,'' gave
to the place for a long time a very scattered ap-
pearance ; but the rapidity with which of late years
the city has been built up seems to give hopes
that the expectations of the original founders
may be at least partially fulfilled.

The ground on which Washington stands has
a general elevation of about 40 feet above the
level of the river, with some points still higher.
The -streets run N. and S., E. and W., across
which, in a diagonal direction, run a series of
broad avenues, designed to facilitate communica-
tion from one part of the city to another, five
of them radiating from the Capitol, and five
others from the President's House. The avenues
and principal streets are from 130 to 160 feet wide,
and the points at which they meet are selected
as sites for public buildings. The avenues are
named'from the different states ; the streets, be-
ginning at the Capitol, are designated, those N.
and S. of it as A North and A South, B North
and B South, &c., and those E. and W. of it as First
East, First West, Second East, Second West,
&c. Pennsylvania Avenue, extending about a
mile from the Capitol to the President's House,
is the most compactly built, and forms the prin-
cipal thoroughfare.

The Capitol, standing on Capitol Hill, near
the centre of the city plot, is the most striking
building in the city, and the first object that fixes
attention on approaching it. Elevated 72 feet
above tide water, it commands an extensive
view of the city and surrounding country.

The building, independently of the additions
now in progress, is of freestone, and occupies an
area of more than an acre and a half. It is 352
feet in length from N. to S., with a depth from E.
to W. of 121 feet. On the E. front is a splendid
projecting portico, 160 feet wide, of 22 lofty
Corinthian columns, greatly admired for the
grandeur of its design and the beauty of its
execution. It is approached by a noble flight of
steps, and is ornamented by two gigantic marble
statues representing War and Peace. This east-
ern front faces a wide plain not yet much built
upon. On the western front is a projection 83
feet in width, adorned by a recessed portico of 10
Corinthian columns. From this front there is a
rapid descent of some 30 or 40 feet, to the level
of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the building is ap-
proached on this side by winding walks and sev-
eral flights of steps. In the middle of the build-
ing, between these two porticoes and the two
wings on either side, is the Rotunda, a grand cir-
cular hall 95 feet in diameter, and the same in
height. To the top of the dome over the Rotunda,
and from which it is lighted, the height of the
building is 120 feet. The walls of the Rotunda
are adorned with magnificent paintings, with
figures as large as life. Four of them, by Trum-
bull, representing the signing of the Declaration
of Independence, the surrender of Burgoyne, the

surrender of Cornwallis, and Washington's resig-
nation of his commission, are particularly valua-
ble on account of the portraits which they con-
tain. There are, besides, the Baptism of Poca-
hontas, by Chapman, the Embarkation of the
Pilgrims, by Weir, and the Landing of Columbus,
by Vanderlyn. One panel is yet unfilled. The
room is also adorned with sculptures in
representing the rescue of Smith by the
interposition of Pocahontas, the landing of the
Pilgrims, Penn's Indian treaty, and Boone in
murderous conflict with the Indians. The library
room, on the W. of the rotunda, is 92 feet by 34,
and 36 feet high. A large part of the library
was recently destroyed by an accidental fire, but
effectual steps have been taken to replace it.
The wings, which are 121 feet in depth, contain,
the northern one, the Senate Chamber, and that
on the S., the Chamber of the House of Repre-
sentatives. The Senate Chamber is 78 feet
diameter and 45 high, and of a semicircular
form. The vice president's chair has a canopy
of rich crimson drapery, held by the talons of an
eagle: above and behind the chair is a gallery for
spectators, supported by Ionic columns of varie-
gated marble, and another gallery extends round
the semicircle. In the basement below is the
room occupied by the Supreme Court. The Hall
of th.e House of Representatives, in the S. wing,
is semicircular like the Senate Chamber, but larg-
er, being 96 feet diameter, and 60 feet high. The
dome of this hall is supported by 24 Corinthian
columns, of the beautiful variegated Potomac mar-
ble, highly polished. As in the Senate Chamber,
the seats are so arranged as to face the speaker,
whose chair, placed opposite the circular sweep,
is considerably elevated, and is approached by
avenues radiating from it as a centre. The gal-
lery above the speaker's chair is reserved for
ladies; another, for gentlemen, extends round
the semicircle.

The Capitol, begun in 1793, planned by Charles
Bulfinch of Boston, and continued under the su-
perintendence of M. Latrobe, was many years in
building, and has cost more than $2,*000,000 in
the whole. It was first occupied in 1800, the
northern wing only being then completed, at a
cost of $480,009. In 1814, after the completion
of the southern wing, which cost $308,000, but
before the erection of the Rotunda and porticoes,
during the British occupation of Washington, the
building was set on fire, and the roofs and inte-
rior were burned. The wings were repaired and
occupied in 1819. The centre building was com-
pleted in 1827, costing about a million. The
sandstone of which the Capitol is built is very
perishable, cracking off by the effect of the rain
and frosts ; and to save it from rapid disintegra-
tion it is necessary to keep it covered with a coat
of paint. Loud complaints have always been
made that the Representatives' Hall, in spite of
its splendid appearance, is very badly adapted
for either hearing or speaking, and at length
measures have been taken for providing new
chambers for the Senate and House by the erec-
tion of two additional wings, which are now in

This extension of the Capitol consists of two
wing buildings of marble placed at the N. and S.
ends of the present structure, at the distance of
44 feet from it, with connecting corridors. Each
building is 142 feet 8 inches front, from N. to S.,
by 238 feet 10 inches deep, from E. to W., ex-

A Gazetteer of the United States of America by John Hayward.

Hartford, CT: Case, Tiffany and Company. 1853. Public domain image

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