Thomas Jefferson Building

Thomas Jefferson Building

The oldest of the three United States Library of Congress buildings, the Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. It is known for its classicizing facade and elaborately decorated interior, designed by John L. Smithmeyer who was replaced by his assistant, Paul J. Pelz, who was in turn succeeded by Edward Pearce Casey. [Casey was the son of Brig. Gen. Thomas Lincoln Casey, Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.] The Library of Congress Building as it was at first known, is located on First Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street in Washington, DC.


Needing more room for its increasing collection, the Library of Congress under Librarian Ainsworth Rand Spofford suggested to the Congress that a new building be built specifically to serve as the American national library. Prior to this the Library existed in a wing of the Capitol Building. The new building was needed partly because of the growing Congress, but also partly because of the Copyright Law of 1870, which required all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work. This resulted in a flood of books, pamphlets, maps, music, prints and photographs. Spofford had been instrumental in the enactment of this law.

After Congress approved construction of the building in 1886, it took eleven years to complete. The building opened to the public on November 1 1897, met with wide approval and was immediately seen as a national monument. Originally called simply the "Library of Congress Building," its name was changed on June 13 1980 to honor former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who had been a key figure in the establishment of the Library in 1800. Jefferson offered to sell his personal book collection to Congress in September 1814, one month after the British had burned the Capitol in the War of 1812.

Capitol Page School

Senate, House and Supreme Court pages used to attend school together in the Capitol Page School located on the attic level above the Great Hall. Upon the separation of the programs (and the abolishment of the Supreme Court Page Program), the schools split. Senate Pages now attend school in the basement of their dormitory, while House Pages continue to attend classes at what is now the House Page School above the Great Hall. The School's corridor is also home to the official office of the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Coolidge Auditorium

The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium, which opened in 1933, has been home to more than 2,000 concerts, primarily of classical chamber music, but occasionally also of jazz, folk music, and special presentations. Some performances make use of the Library's extensive collection of musical instruments and manuscripts. Most of the performances are free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge was a wealthy patron of the arts and was no relation to Calvin Coolidge, who, coincidentally, was President of the United States at the time the original bequest for the auditorium was made in 1925.


More than forty American painters and sculptors produced commissioned works of art. [ [ THE THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDING - On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Buildings of the Library of Congress - the John Adams Building ] ]

Olin Levi Warner, tympanum representing Writing, above exterior of main entrance doors, 1896.
Henry Oliver Walker, "Lyric Poetry", 1896.
Gari Melchers, "Mural of War", 1896.
Elihu Vedder, "Minerva of Peace", 1896.
Edward Emerson Simmons, "Melpomene", 1896.
Charles Sprague Pearce, "Labor", 1896.

ee also

*John Adams Building
*James Madison Memorial Building

External links

"The references below are public domain websites of the Library of Congress"
* [] - "On These Walls" Library of Congress website
* [] - Thomas Jefferson Building


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