The Capitol in Washington, DC, is home to the United States Congress. It is where members of the Senate and the House of Representatives deliberate and debate issues facing the American people and craft the laws that govern the nation. Designed in a neoclassical style to evoke the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, the Capitol and its iconic dome stand as a symbol of American democracy.
For more than 160 years, the Senate has occupied its current Chamber in the United States Capitol. Measuring 114 feet long by 80 feet wide, and 36 feet from its floor to the highest point of its ceiling, the Senate Chamber retains an intimacy characteristic of a 19th-century legislative hall, while simultaneously meeting the needs of modern legislators. Mahogany desks and spittoons from that earlier era coexist with microphones, computers, and television cameras, linking today’s senators to their historical predecessors.
The Senate conducts its business in offices, meeting rooms, hearing rooms, and corridors that are rich in architectural and artistic décor and evoke the long history of the Senate and the U.S. Capitol.
Beginning in the 1880s, senators sought more office space as their workloads and staff began to grow. In 1891 the Senate acquired an apartment building on Constitution Ave., the Maltby Building, and converted it into offices, which senators occupied until 1905. In 1909 the Senate’s first office building, later named for Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, opened. In 1958 construction of a second office building, later named for Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, was completed. Senators moved into a third office building in 1982, named for Senator Philip Hart of Michigan.
Since ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the federal government has designated three cities as the nation’s capital, where the Senate has met to conduct its business: New York City (1789–1790), Philadelphia (1790–1800), and Washington, DC.
Prior to moving into its current Chamber in 1859, the Senate met in chambers in Federal Hall in New York City (1789–1790), Congress Hall in Philadelphia (1790–1800), and in various quarters in (and briefly nearby) the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.