Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The Library of Congress--America's de facto national library

Washington, D.C., has some stunning classical architecture, but none is grander than the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The LOC consists of three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson, the John Adams, and the James Madison Buildings. All three buildings are bordered by Independence Avenue on at least one side. The Jefferson Building, which is the first and main library, faces the U.S. Capitol.

Neptune's Grotto--The main fountain at the Library of Congress

In 1800, the LOC was established by an Act of Congress that also transferred the federal capital from Philadelphia, Pa., to Washington, D.C. Initially, the library was meant exclusively for the use of Congress, but over time has become a source for politicians and scholars alike. The original library was housed in the Capitol, but when the British burned the city in August 1814, they also destroyed the library. After that tragedy, retired U.S. president Thomas Jefferson donated his personal library--6,487 volumes and works--and the national library was born. To read more about Jefferson's legacy, go here.

Detail of the front of the Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress

What is striking about the Thomas Jefferson Building is the ornate architecture. This is the only building in the city I can think of that is so strikingly reminiscent of the beautiful architecture found throughout Europe, it is literally breathtaking! The building is open to the public and there is a wonderful tour that features stunning mosaics. Access is available to the reading rooms, but books cannot be checked out by the general public. The Library also features exhibitions and special events throughout the year. In the James Madison Building, you can see the Gutenberg Bible! Also be sure to check out the Library's prints and photos collection.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 3/08


Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

Absolutely gorgeous, D.C. And, yes, many architectural classics in your city are just grand.

Lara said...

you said it all with the title!

The Artful Eye said...

Magnificence is an understatement. One of my favorite buildings.

I loved visiting here.

Thank you.

D.C. Confidential said...

Fenix: Thanks!

Lara: I couldn't think of a better word to describe this, aside from herrlich!

AE: It's a gorgeous building, isn't it? And you're welcome!

Lisa Sarsfield said...

I'm nearly drooling. This building is wonderful and I would love to see it in the 'real'. I had no idea America had so many wonderful buildings. Very, very nice architecture and a real asset to your country.

d.c. confidential said...

Lisa: We have some good architecture throughout the U.S. Visiting cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco offers some wonderful opportunities to see some amazing buildings. The interesting thing about D.C. architecture and buildings is, it's height restricted. Nothing can be over 12 stories high (it can't exceed the height of the Washington Monument, which is 555 feet.) As a result, we don't have skyscrapers and the like such as you'd find in other big cities. That said, though, we do have a nice share of architecturally stunning buildings.

You'll have to come to D.C. If you like the outside of the Library of Congress, you should see the inside!

b.c. said...

these photos were just awesome

D.C. Confidential said...

B.C.: Thank you!