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House, is the National Hall of Statuary, formerly the Chamber of the House. The Congressional Library is west of the Rotunda, filling the western projection of the main building.
In the Rotunda we may well linger an hour; it is in many respects the most imposing apartment of the Capitol. It is 951 feet in diameter, 300 feet in circumference, and 185 feet high. Its sandstone floor rests on solid brick arches, which are supported by columns arranged in peristyles. The ceiling is of iron, being the interior of the great dome. The Rotunda is lighted by thirty-six windows placed in the ceiling. At its apex is a small opening known as “the eye," and around this a huge canopy of iron covered with stucco, in which is painted an allegorical fresco called the “ Apotheosis of Washington,"
" the work of an Italian artist. The frieze of the Rotunda is ten feet wide, and bears frescos of important events in the history of America. On the walls below the frieze are arabesque designs and panels and medallions of Raleigh, Columbus, Cabot, and La Salle, and above the entrance doors in oblong panels are designs in alto-relievo representing the Landing of the Pilgrims, and other events of national importance. The most noticeable feature of the Rotunda, however, is the series of paintings by American artists set in panels around the walls. The first, by John Vanderlyn, has for its subject the Landing of Columbus at San Salvador; the second, by William H. Powell, represents the Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto, May, 1541; the third, by John G. Chapman, the Baptism of Pocahontas, 1613; and the fourth, by Robert W. Weir, the Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Delft Haven in Holland, July 21, 1620. The other four paintings relate to the Revolutionary War, and are the work of John Trumbull, himself an eye-witness of the scenes portrayed. This artist was the son of Jonathan Trumbull, Connecticut's famous “ war governor," and served for some time on the staff of
General Washington. These paintings have therefore a special historic value, all of the many distinguished men portrayed in them being taken from life.
The first of the series is entitled “Signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776.” The second, “Surrender of General Burgoyne, Saratoga, October 17, 1777." The third, “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, October 19, 1781." The fourth and last,“ Resignation of General Washington at Annapolis, December 23, 1783."
A door on the east side of the Rotunda gives admittance to a lobby, where one finds a circular iron stairway leading to the summit of the dome. Round and round the great iron structure it winds, the people below growing smaller and smaller as one ascends, and Brumidi's divinities on the canopy drawing nearer, until at last one passes through the shell of the dome, and is on the exterior, with the great spherical roof rising above. Creeping over this, one comes out at last upon the tholus or cupola, directly under the great statue of Freedom. From this point the whole city is spread out before one like a checkerboard, and the beauties and peculiarities of L'Enfant's plan may be studied at leisure.
The avenues radiating from the Capitol, the public gardens, parks, and shades, the noble public edifices, the great Washington Monument dominating all, the broad Potomac beyond, a ribbon of silver in a sea of green, and the eternal hills guarding the whole,-one cannot fairly realize the natural beauty of the capital until it has been viewed from this eyrie.