Today we went again into the capitol. This time to visit the Old Post Office and the Library of Congress. It was a beautiful day but cold.
The building now known as the Old Post Office was constructed in the 1890’s as a technological marvel. Its 315 foot height made it the tallest building in the District of Columbia at the time. Designed as the headquarters for the Postmaster General of the United States and the US Post Office Department, as well as the location of the city post office, the building garnered immediate attention for housing Washington’s largest uninterrupted enclosed interior and two glass ceilings arching over the huge interior. Additionally the building achieved fame as one of the first major steel frame building erected in Washington and one of the largest government building built to that date.
Ironically, no sooner had construction commenced on the building than its architectural idiom fell into disfavor with government planners. The Old Post office soon became an object of derision. Critics referred to it as ‘The Old Tooth’ and called for its demolition. The building served as the city post office from 1898 to 1914 and as offices of the United States Post Office Department from 1899 to 1934. Over time and with changing opinion the building became a revered relic. In 1978 the building underwent renovation and now offers superb views over Washington.
The Library of Congress – Thomas Jefferson Building: The Library of Congress was established in 1800 and was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books and his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States. In January 1815 Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for the 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library.Under Librarian Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1864 to 1897) who was responsible for the copyright law of 1870 which required all copyright applicants to send two copies of their work to the Library, the Library was built into a national institution.
Because of the number of books etc Spofford convinced Congress of the need for a new building. In 1886 Congress authorized construction of a new Library building in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The Libray of Congress was opened to the public in November 1897 and was hailed as a glorious national monument. It was restored between 1984 and 1997 to its 19th century splendor while modernizing it for use in the 21st century.
A magnificent building which should not be missed.