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109th Congress, 2nd Session
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November 13, 2006
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Splendid Hall
The Hall of the House | Growth of a Young Nation | Design of the Hall | Speaker of the House | Notable Ceremonies | John Quincy Adams | Historical Artifacts

The Hall of the House

Painting of the Old House Chamber, circa 1838
Old House Chamber, circa 1838


Allyn Cox
Oil on Canvas

The first House chamber in the Capitol was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. After the House moved to its present chamber in 1857, this room was designated National Statuary Hall. John Quincy Adams (center, with raised hand) is shown speaking in the chamber; Speaker James K. Polk is seated under the canopy at left.

Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol


The Hall of the House of Representatives (1807-1857)

This exhibition features the House of Representatives as it was during the half century it met in this chamber. The Old Hall of the House or Old House Chamber, now known as Statuary Hall, is one of the most historic parts of the U.S. Capitol. The House of Representatives met here from 1807 until 1857, when the present House Chamber was completed. In this Hall, Representatives debated the destiny of an expanding young Nation.

The Members sat at desks of various sizes arranged in tiered semi-circular rows with aisles. The Speaker's Rostrum, with its elaborate canopy, stood below the sculpture Liberty and the Eagle. Visitors flocked to the galleries, which were easily accessible by two outside entrances.

In 1864, the Congress designated this room National Statuary Hall and invited each state to contribute two statues of deceased citizens deserving of lasting commemoration. The 40 statues in this room are part of that collection; the rest are displayed in other areas of the Capitol.

In a painting by Samuel F.B. Morse, the Members of the House of Representatives gathered for an evening session lit by an oil-burning chandelier. Each person is depicted on the basis of an individual portrait study. After Morse tried unsuccessfully to sell this painting to Congress for $1,000, he abandoned art in favor of science. Twenty-two years later, in 1844, Morse demonstrated his invention, the telegraph, at the Capitol.

The painting by Morse guided the re-creation of the chandelier, sconces, and draperies during the partial restoration of the room in 1976.

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Splendid Hall Exhibit
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Take a virtual tour of Splendid Hall and discover the architectural treasures and historical artifacts of the Old House Chamber.


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