the united states capitol

Sunday, August 25: Since I returned home to the USA at the end of July after three years living abroad, I’ve been posing as a tourist in my own country.  I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of the last 25 years, and though I don’t live in the city itself, I live in one of the largest of the metropolitan area suburbs:  Fairfax County, Virginia.  The monuments in Washington seem commonplace to me since I’ve seen them so many times.  In fact they seem so commonplace that I’ve hardly ever bothered to photograph them.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t even notice the things in your own backyard?

Today I venture into Washington on a Sunday morning in search of photos for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project: The project is called Partwatching and the goal is to take creative photos of people interacting with art.  I’m heading for the National Gallery of Art, where I hope to surreptitiously capture people interacting with art.   However, before going there, I decide I’ll talk a little stroll around the United States Capitol, the iconic symbol of Washington.  I’ve taken the tour of the interior before, but today I just walk around the grounds out front.

The United States Capitol, according to The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature. It is built in neo-classical style with a white exterior.  Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Though it has never been the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned (Wikipedia: United States Capitol).

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidential memorial at the base of Capitol Hill, honoring American Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The sculpture of Grant on horseback faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which honors Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln; together, the Grant and Lincoln memorials define the eastern and western boundaries of the National Mall.

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The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

A striking feature of the central statue is Grant’s calm attitude amidst the raging fighting going on around him. This is not surprising because Grant was known for his calmness and coolheadedness during battle. In sharp contrast to Grant are the sculpture groups on either side, Cavalry Charge and Artillery (Wikipedia: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial).

Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Artillery Sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol

Standing on the grounds of the Capitol and looking West, I can see the National Mall stretching before me, with the Washington Monument, covered in scaffolding, standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Mall and the Washington Monument
The Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument

I hop into a small traffic circle with a garden and a statue, behind which looms the dome of the Capitol.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

I love the view below of the National Mall and the Washington Monument.  The Monument is like an alien object now; it’s covered in black scaffolding while it undergoes repairs due to structural damage from the 2011 earthquake.  My first reaction when I saw it upon my return was the same irritation I felt when I went to Angkor Wat and found its front facade covered in scaffolding and green netting.  But… now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think I like it!  Maybe they should keep it like this forever. 🙂

the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol

I then head to the National Art Gallery, in search of people interacting with art.