Leaving the U.S. Capitol, we walked through the underground corridor...

that leads to the

The beautiful Thomas Jefferson Building, located directly across the street from the Capitol Building...
is the centerpiece of the Library of Congress' three buildings on Capitol Hill. The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800 by President John Adams. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress -- and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein...." Actually anyone over the age of 16 can use the Library for research purposes, but within the premises of the Library. Only members of Congress can check out materials out of the Library.

The main attraction for visitors in the Thomas Jefferson Building is the glorious Great Hall.

The ceiling, 75-feet above the marble floor, is decorated with stained-glass skylights. During the renovation of the Jefferson Building in the 1980s, restorers discovered that the metallic ornamentation of the ceiling, once thought to be silver leaf, is actually aluminum leaf. When the building was being constructed during the 1890s, aluminum was more precious than silver.

The interior is simply breathtaking. 

The artistic decorations, embellished by works of art from nearly fifty American painters and sculptors, relate to learning, literature, knowledge, creativity and intellectual achievement. You can see the names of writers such as Victor Hugo, Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper, authors who were popular at the time the building was constructed, and were considered to have made great contributions to literature and history.

The circular panels above the doorways represent Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

There are fifty-six triangular-shaped printers’ marks around the brilliantly-painted ceiling. Printers’ marks were a type of self-protection similar to a trademark or copyright today.

The paired columns that hold up the ceiling have an elaborate leaf design on their capitals.

At the corners of the ceiling two winged figures of genius flank an emblem showing the traditional symbols of learning, a torch and a book.

Two marble staircases flank the Great Hall.

Figures of small children, or putti as they are called in Italian Renaissance art, are carved into the railings. They represent the various occupations and hobbies in contemporary American life when the Jefferson Building was completed in 1897.

A bronze statue of a female figure on newel post holds a torch of electric light. The importance of America’s contributions to science such as Benjamin Franklin's discovery of electricity, is celebrated throughout the Jefferson Building.

On the second floor of the Great Hall is the beautiful Minerva Mosaic which leads to the overlook of the Main Reading Room. I'll show you my photos of that in my next post.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.

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