National Statuary Hall

The National Statuary Hall is one of the most popular Washington DC attractions. Hundreds of people visit it on a typical day. Housed in the Capitol Building, this large and airy room is one of the earliest examples of Neoclassical architecture in America and features numerous sculptures of prominent people from the past. Also known as the Old Hall of the House, the National Statuary Hall boasts an interesting past of its own. From 1807 to 1857, it was the main meeting place of the U.S. House of Representatives.

National Statuary Hall History and Features

National Statuary Hall History and Features
National Statuary Hall History and Features

During its run as the meeting place of the U.S. House of Representatives, the National Statuary Hall was more than just a place where state representatives hashed out governmental issues. It was in this room in 1824 that the Marquis de Lafayette became the first foreign citizen to address Congress, for example, and several U.S. Presidents were inaugurated within the hall’s splendid confines. Among these Presidents were James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Millard Fillmore.

In 1864, it was decided that the National Statuary Hall would undertake its current role, which is primarily that of a place to display statues of prominent people from each state of the union. The hall also plays host to special ceremonies from time to time. Originally, each state was asked to contribute two statues to the hall. It wasn’t until 2005 that the collection was completed with the contribution of a statue of Po’Pay from New Mexico. Because of size constraints, only 38 statues are displayed in the actual Hall itself. The others are found in the Visitor Center and scattered throughout the Capitol Building corridors.

Desk of Abraham Lincoln
Desk of Abraham Lincoln

As a side note, the National Statuary Hall has some interesting acoustic features. Thanks to the room’s half-dome shape, it is possible to clearly hear someone speaking from many yards away if you stand in certain spots. National Statuary Hall visitors are also encouraged to keep an eye out for the plaques that are affixed to the floor of the great room. One such plaque marks the approximate location of Abraham Lincoln’s desk when he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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