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Senate Meeting Places

Since the Senate's initial meeting in March 1789 it has occupied numerous chambers located in three different cities: New York, Philadelphia, and finally Washington D.C. The nation's rapid growth from 13 seaboard-hugging eastern states to a continent-spanning union of 50 states inspired a constant quest for larger and more functional quarters. The development of the Capitol and its surrounding office buildings over the past two centuries symbolizes the expansion of both the country's physical domain and the national government's role in domestic and world affairs.


Image of Federal Hall

Federal Hall, New York City, 1789-1790

Under the 1781 Articles of Confederation it was determined that New York City would serve as the temporary capital for the new Congress. Located in Federal Hall, just north of Battery on Wall Street, Congress would remain there until 1790 when members decided to locate the capital city along the Potomac River, in a district under Federal control. It would be, however, another decade before Congress would finally arrive in Washington, D.C.

Painting of Congress Hall in Philadelphia

Congress Hall, Philadelphia, 1790-1800

Philadelphia's Congress Hall housed Congress from December 1790 until May 1800. During Congress' time in Philadelphia, Congress Hall had to be renovated twice. The first renovation expanded the House Chamber to accommodate 40 additional House members. The second renovation took place when the Senate decided to open legislative sessions to the public.

The New Dome of the Capitol at Washington.

Washington D.C., 1800-Present

President George Washington set the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793, but it would be several more years before Congress moved to Washington. On November 21, 1800, meeting in the ground-floor room now restored as the Old Supreme Court Chamber, the Senate achieved its first quorum in Washington. In 1810 the Senate moved into what is now known as the Old Senate Chamber. It occupied this room for almost 50 years. As more states were added to the Union, the Senate needed an even larger chamber. Consequently, on January 4, 1859 it moved to the current Senate Chamber. In the 20th century, three office buildings were added to accommodate senators, staff, and committees.


For more information about the Senate's meeting places see the Art & History and Reference sections of the website.


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Senate Historical Office

Historical information provided by the Senate Historical Office.


Senate's Institutional History

It was up to the first Senate in 1789 to organize, establish its rules, and set precedents that would govern its actions in years to come, evolving into a complex legislative body.