On our last half-day in Washington DC, we took a tour of the US Capitol, which almost didn’t happen.
To reserve a visit to either there or the White House, you need to contact your Congressional representative. Ours is Ed Perlmutter, a fairly moderate Democrat who seems to please both sides of the political spectrum (me included – I’ve voted for him about four times). Well, to make the long story short, I hadn’t heard from his office, even though we should have by the time we were in New York the week before. Finally, we received a confirmation for a tour, and it turned out to be guided by the forgetful staffer I originally communicated with, who was also leaving his job in a few weeks. Hopefully this wasn’t his punishment for failing to get back to us.
Daniel was knowledgeable of Capitol history. We started at the Congressman’s office, then went through a very long underground corridor from the representatives’ office complex to the building itself. He peppered our tour with a lot of facts and dates which RAS and I found interesting, but I’m not sure if the girls did. To their credit, if they were bored, they never showed it.
Because of our scheduling issue, we were the lucky recipients of this private tour. Otherwise, we probably would’ve been in the same cattle call tour as most people take when they come to the Capitol. So in the end, we lucked out.
We made many stops along the way, but here are some of the more memorable ones…
The large Rotunda was not part of the original Capitol building. When British military burned part of it down in August 1814, the builders included more ornamentation, including the marble steps, a portico with columns and the Capitol as we know it today. Apparently we took this tour just in time, too. Daniel told us that the exterior will soon be covered in scaffolding for a refurbishing to be done before the inauguration of the next President.
Lined around its interior base are sculptures depicting important moments in American history, including the Revolutionary War and settlement of the West. Down below on its circular floor, large oil paintings show our nation’s history as well.
Here is a plaque that few people know about near the Rotunda. During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the last of the four flights (United 93) didn’t make it to its likely target, the Capitol, and instead crashed in rural Pennsylvania because of the bravery of those onboard. The names of the crew and passengers are forever immortalized on this.
Every state is allowed two historical figures for representation in the Capitol. Collectively, it’s called the National Statuary Hall Collection. The locations of the statues are all over the building, with some in the actual hall, some in the Rotunda, in corridors, the Crypt and other places. Colorado’s statues represent Florence Sabin, one of the first female medical scientists (and the one we didn’t see), and Apollo 13 astronaut and Congressman-elect John “Jack” Swigert, which was located in the Visitor’s Center.
We also visited both chambers of Congress, the House and the Senate. But security does not allow you to take in any kind of electronic devices or cameras. So I have no proof we saw two Senators drone on about defense spending (the girls could only handle about ten minutes of that and RAS and me only a few minutes more), or seeing the House completely empty, except for some media workers setting up lights. Both rooms are much smaller than you might expect. It makes me wonder how they cram all those people into the House chamber when the President gives his State of the Union every January.
After lunch in the Capitol’s cafeteria, we headed outside and saw the Supreme Court. We might’ve tried to take a look inside, but it was getting late, and we wanted to beat the rush-hour traffic to get to Delaware, and a much-needed escape from the Washington DC heat to the beach.
When you think of visiting Delaware, what comes to mind? This is what did for me (courtesy of the movie “Wayne’s World”):
Yep, that’s about how excited I was to go there. But RAS insisted it was going to be worth it. And just like other things in our marriage, I had to trust him.
On the next post, you’ll see if he was right 🙂