This past weekend was our post birthday trip / we-finished-The-West-Wing trip to see our nation’s capitol that we fell in love with while watching the series. I hadn’t been since elementary school and Joel had basically never been, unless you count a couple hours at a club to see his friend’s band play. The genesis of the trip centered around the TV show so obviously when planning our itinerary a White House tour was top of the list. Unfortunately as a result of the sequester budget cuts White House tours were halted until further notice so we set our sights on a Capitol Tour. Thanks to my co-worker (thanks a million Audra!!!) whose cousin is John Boehner’s Press Secretary we got a private tour through his office.
So the trip started Friday afternoon…Chauncy, a freshman at George Washington University and an intern in the Speaker of the House’s office was our guide. We began in Boehner’s office in the Longworth Building, just one of the Speaker’s three offices. An elaborate underground tunnel system connects the 4 House office buildings, the 3 Senate office buildings, the Library of Congress and the actual Capitol building (maybe even the Supreme Court too, I don’t remember). It’s a whole city underground basically, they have their own zip code, post office, dry cleaners…never have to come up for air! Most staffers and Congressional members never do, though Marco Rubio does decide to join the pedestrians and seek sunshine to actually walk across the street from his office in the Senate building to the Senate chamber in the Capitol building. Along the walls of the tunnel corridors hangs artwork from children of each Representative’s district. I can’t recall how long they’re displayed but after they’re taken down they go on to sell for thousands of dollars….not bad for a struggling 9-year old artist! The black-white sketch of the girl is from Boehner’s district.
Okay, so now we’re actually entering, from underground, the U.S. Capitol Building!
The visitor center lobby has a replica of the Statue of Freedom while the real statue, bronzed in all her glory, sits on top of the Capitol dome at 19 1/2 tall. No buildings in DC are allowed to be taller than the Capitol (with the exception of the Washington Monument) and no statues are permitted to be taller than the Statue of Freedom, which is why Lincoln is seated in the Lincoln Memorial.
The crypt, located directly under the Capitol rotunda. Chauncy told us people stand on the star just below the center dome for good luck, so obviously we did!
Each state donates 2 statues of prominent Americans honoring their history that are displayed throughout the Capitol rooms. Donated by my home state of Virginia is General Robert E. Lee in the crypt. Many actually lobbied for his removal citing his Confederate symbolism but Virginia fought back and would only agree to the removal on the grounds that their other statue of the great George Washington be removed also….tricky Virginians:)
The original supreme court was actually located in the Capitol building.
These walls of the rotunda feature 8 murals; 4 of the colonization of America and 4 of the American Revolution. Here are Joel and Chauncy admiring one of them.
And then all the sudden we stumbled upon the Speaker of the House’s main office. No pictures were allowed but we were able to go inside and see his personal office and meeting rooms. Amazing to think of all the people who have set foot in those rooms. He shares a balcony with the President pro tempore of the Senate that looks out over The National Mall and where the inauguration takes place. Pics were allowed out there!
We spent so much time taking pictures and asking questions that we missed the main event – seeing the House Chamber. So that’s on the list for the next trip!
We walked back to our hotel from the Capitol and passed by gorgeous buildings, museums, a million flags and you know, just the FBI!
We headed to Dupont Circle for a yummy Mexican dinner at Lauriol Plaza and look who was there…
On our walk home we found ourselves on the door steps of The White House, the EEOB and Blair House. The lighting on these buildings at night is spectacular that the iPhone just doesn’t do justice!
Saturday and Sunday’s adventures coming later…