National Capitol Columns
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (May 2011)|
The National Capitol Columns is a monument located in Washington's National Arboretum. It is designed in the style of Corinthian columns, with twenty-two columns submerged in 20 acres (8.1 ha) of open meadow, known as the Ellipse Meadow.
They were originally built as part of the east portico of the Capitol in 1828, long before the familiar Capitol dome was completed. However, when the dome was completed in 1866 it appeared as if it was not adequately supported by the columns, because the iron dome was significantly larger than the dome that the designer envisioned. In order to correct this visual illusion an addition to the east side of the Capitol was proposed, finally being constructed in 1958, and the columns were removed.
Transfer to Arboretum
During the 1980s, Arboretum benefactor Ethel Garrett took up the cause of establishing a permanent home for the columns. Russell Page, a landscape designer and close friend of Garrett's, visited the Arboretum in September 1984, only months before his death. He determined that the east side of the Ellipse Meadow would be an ideal location, as the columns would be in scale with the more than 20 acres (8.1 ha) of open meadow available at the site.
The columns were relocated to this site, and set on a foundation of stones from the steps that were on the east side of the Capitol. A reflecting pool fed by a small rivulet of water running down a channel in the steps reflects the columns, and provides sound and movement.
A capital, or top portion, of one of the columns is located elsewhere in the meadow, allowing the detail that the stone carver incorporated into the design to be observed. Acanthus leaves are clearly visible, and the many layers of paint applied while the column was in place at the Capitol are visible on portions of the stone.
The two missing columns
While 22 of the original 24 columns stand in the Ellipse Meadow, the remaining two rest at the summit of Mount Hamilton, inside the Arboretum's Azalea Collection. Both are cracked in half and neither have a base or capital.
- Media related to National Capitol Columns at Wikimedia Commons
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "A Capitol Idea" by The United States National Arboretum (retrieved on 2010-11-12).
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