Almanac: The U.S. Capitol building opens

Almanac: The U.S. Capitol building opens

On November 17, 1800, the United States Congress met for the very first time in the as-yet-unfinished Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

President George Washington had laid the cornerstone in 1793, launching a years-long construction project that employed many enslaved laborers.

Completed in 1826, the original Capitol soon proved too small for the growing nation.

And so, in 1855, construction began on a vastly expanded building with a towering new dome.

Crowds gather beneath the still-under-construction Capitol dome for the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president, March 4, 1861. Library of Congress

Work on the Capitol continued even through the darkest days of the Civil War. Said President Abraham Lincoln, "If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on."

The dome was completed, and topped off with an idealized "Statue of Freedom," in time for Lincoln's second inauguration in 1865.

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Story produced by  Charis Satchell.