Senate Chamber Chairs
When British troops burned the Capitol in 1814, the Senate Chamber was extensively damaged and its furnishings destroyed. As part of the reconstruction effort, the Senate commissioned New York cabinet-maker Thomas Constantine to build 48 desks and chairs for its members. Completed in time for the reopening of the Chamber in 1819, Constantines chairs bore a close resemblance to a neoclassical design published by Thomas Hope in his Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (London, 1807).
As states were added to the Union, additional desks and chairs were produced by a variety of cabinetmakers to satisfy the demand of increased Senate membership. While all of the desks are still in use, sometime in the late 19th century the chairs were gradually removed. Only three of the original 1819 chairs have been located to date
two in private collections and one now in the Senate Collection. Unfortunately, a fourth chair, owned by "Beauvoir," the historic post-Civil war home and library of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi, Mississippi, was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Only a brass castor was found among the debris.
Todays Senate Chamber chairs are made in the Senate Cabinet Shop and are of a modified Thomas Constantine design. They are somewhat smaller, and less intricately carved than those built in 1819. Senators are permitted to purchase their chairs upon leaving office, and replacement chairs are made after each election.