My always alert, knowledgable, and prescient brother Steve contributes this interesting tidbit from the writersalmanac.com
On this date in 1800, the United States Congress
met in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., for the first time.
Construction had begun on the domed building in 1793, but it soon fell behind schedule and went over budget, so in 1796 the planners made the decision to build only the Senate wing. On move-in day, some of the rooms were still incomplete, but the building was sufficiently finished to accommodate the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and some district courts. President John Adams had pushed for the move, even though the building wasn’t complete, because he hoped to gain Southern votes for his re-election campaign.
The weather didn’t cooperate, christening the first day of the new session and the new building with heavy snow. The welcoming parade had to be canceled, and congressmen were delayed trying to get to their offices, with only 15 making it into the chamber on opening day; it would be a further four days before enough senators were there to answer the quorum call and open the session. At that point, the House and Senate sent word to President Adams that they awaited his address. He arrived the following day; his was to be the last personal address to Congress by a president for the next 113 years.
Members of Congress were less than pleased with their new accommodations. Although richly appointed, the building leaked and had no heat. Washington was a primitive backwater, especially when compared to the civilized and well-established Philadelphia, where they had met for the preceding 10 years. One New York senator observed that Washington needed only “houses, cellars, kitchens, well-informed men, amiable women, and other little trifles of this kind” to make it perfect.
In its early days, the Capitol moonlighted as a church on the weekends; beginning with the Jefferson administration in 1801, church services were held every Sunday in the House of Representatives. Jefferson did not feel that this violated the separation of church and state, because attendance was voluntary and the services were nondiscriminatory — at least as long as you were Protestant, since all (and only) Protestant denominations were represented. Jefferson and his successor, James Madison, attended the services themselves. Worship services were expanded to include Catholic mass in 1826, and church meetings in the House continued until after the Civil War.
Both wings of the Capitol were completed just in time for the building to be burned by the British in 1814, during the War of 1812. Reconstruction began in 1815 and was completed in 1819; the first dome, however, wasn’t complete until 1826. By 1850, with the ongoing influx of new states and their new congressmen, it was clear that an expansion was in order. Built largely by slave labor, the new Capitol was nearly twice as long, which threw it out of proportion to the original dome. In 1855, they tore down the old timber dome and replaced it with the cast-iron version we’re familiar with today: three times the height of the original, and topped with a 20-foot statue of a woman holding a sword and a laurel wreath, known as Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace, or sometimes, Armed Freedom.