The US Capitol

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Scaffolding covers the Capitol dome for a massive restoration project. The work is done at night with the help of over 700 LED lights to guide the workers.

This is the second in a series of 10 DC Walks.  Click the link to see the rest!

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This post is one in a series of Ten 3-Mile Walks Around Washington, DC. The pins in the map below show where I stopped to take pictures but also serve to outline the route!


This weekend my wife joined me and we walked around the US Capitol.  I have been going out just before sunset and that has been producing fantastic photos.  The soft low light of the winter sunset creates warm glowing colors and everything looks so beautiful!  Even the scaffold-encased Capitol dome looks magical with the pink light of sunset!

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The Museum of the American Indian makes a statement before you even enter it. Golden limestone was used to resemble rock formations that have been shaped by wind and water over the centuries,

We started at the southwest corner of Capitol Hill near the National Museum of the American Indian.  Dedicated to preserving and sharing the culture of native Americans, this building is one of the newest on the National Mall.  The building is made from golden limestone and is inspired from rock formations shaped by wind and water over the centuries.  It is ethereal and mystical.

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The oldest of the 4 House Office Buildings, the Cannon Building was constructed in 1908.

From there we walked up the House side of the hill, past the famous House office buildings, Cannon, Rayburn, Ford, and Longworth.  If you watch any shows based in Washington DC, House of Cards, Scandal, the West Wing, Homeland, they all feature footage from these seats of power.  You walk past benches where scenes have been filmed, past the Capitol veranda where inaugurations take place.  It’s both a powerful symbolic location and a beautiful open park at the same time.

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The Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

As you reach the top of the hill, the magnificent Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress comes into view.  This building is worthy of a blog post all its own.  It has a rotunda with mosaic tiled interior over the “Old Reading Room”, and a Gutenberg Bible on display.  Outside, the building is no less magnificent with elaborate sculpture, imposing columns, and entrances.

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It’s not an easy neighborhood in which to stand out.  The US Capitol is across the street and the Supreme Court is next door! Not a problem, however, for the ornate architecture of the Library of Congress.

Next to the Library of Congress is the Supreme Court with its imposing steps, visually setting the court above all else.  Here, on a casual walk, is the origin of Brown vs. Board of Education, Roe v Wade, and Bush v Gore to name just a few landmark cases!

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Part of the Supreme Court’s design is the large imposing steps that set the court on a higher plane, symbolically putting it above all else.
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The US Supreme Court

As you pass the Supreme Court you round the corner to the Senate side.  We had an unseasonably warm day in the mid 60’s and there were tons of people out jogging, with strollers, on bikes, and just sight seeing like us.

As we headed down the hill the sun was beginning to set.  We discovered something I had never noticed before.  The Summerhouse is a small brick hexagonal grotto with a fountain and some benches inside a brick enclosure.  It’s very charming!

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This small, almost hidden brick grotto is called Summerhouse. Built into the sloping west front lawn, it is a charming spot to rest and cool off on a hot day.
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The Summerhouse on the front west lawn of the US Capitol

Built over a hundred years ago, it is simply there to be pretty and offer travelers a spot to rest and restore.  It has a decorative fountain as well as drinking fountains.

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As we reached the bottom of Capitol Hill we arrived at the massive reflecting pool.  There is also some awe-inspiring sculpture!  Giant lions on pedestals, a stately Ulysses S. Grant astride his horse, and President James Garfield all have prominent spots.  There are also two large compositions that vividly depict civil war battle scenes.

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This large sculpture is one of a pair of vivid recreations of civil war battle scenes.
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In the center of a prominent intersection at the base of Capitol Hill is a solemn sculpture honoring assassinated president James Garfield.

As we got to the reflecting pool, the sun was setting and we were just in time for some spectacular pictures.  The light was perfect!

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The I.M. Pei-designed East Wing of the National Gallery.
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The last shards of sunlight turn the Canadian Embassy pink and gold.
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The setting sun highlights the silhouettes of the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Castle on Washington, DC’s National Mall.

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On the weekends (especially in the winter) parking on the National Mall is pretty easy.  If you pick a spot near the Museum of the American Indian and walk up the hill and around the Capitol it comes out to just about 3 miles.  There is also a metro stop called Smithsonian.  It comes up right on the Mall, but would make for a longer walk around the Capitol.

We had the good fortune of a gorgeous day, perfect sunset, and light crowds.  I felt a little guilty as my many friends in New England are battling heavy snow and arctic temperatures!



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