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The Senate's Taj Mahal

June 25, 1964


The practice of naming Capitol rooms to honor distinguished Americans who served in the Senate began very quietly on June 25, 1964. On that day, workmen affixed a 10-by-14-inch bronze plaque to the south wall of a sumptuously appointed second-floor room known as "S-211." No press coverage; no fanfare. The honoree was the former Senate majority leader, and current president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson.

When Johnson became the Senate majority leader in 1955, he appropriated from the Joint Economic Committee a third-floor room that today serves as the inner office of the assistant Democratic leader. Offering a working fireplace and a spectacular view, that room presented one drawback. Its location, one floor above the Senate Chamber, proved increasingly inconvenient for a leader who needed to move quickly and frequently between both places.

In 1958, the Senate opened a new office building designed especially to house committees, including those that had been occupying prime space in the Capitol. Johnson seized his opportunity to acquire office space that was both conveniently located and suitably appropriate to his leadership post—S-211. But the room, which was originally designed as the Senate Library, but never used for that purpose, had grown shabby during its three-quarter-century occupancy by the Senate District of Columbia Committee. Johnson arranged for its restoration, with a color scheme vibrant in royal greens and golds, and the ultimate status symbol of that day—a private bathroom. Some dared label the majority leader's refurbished quarters the "Taj Mahal."

When Johnson moved to the vice presidency in 1961, he kept S-211, causing his successor, Mike Mansfield, to relocate the leader's office across the hall. When the vice presidency fell vacant with Johnson's move to the White House in November 1963, control of S-211 reverted to the Senate's leadership.

Several days after the 1964 installation of the Johnson plaque, at the initiative of Majority Leader Mansfield, workers attached a similar marker to Room S-210, across the hall. That plaque honors Senator John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign occupancy of that space, conveniently adjacent to his running mate's office.

In 1987, S-211 underwent a second redecoration to return it to the ornate Victorian appearance intended by its 19th-century architect. Today, this beautiful second-story Capitol room continues to be in demand--for meetings, social events, and weekly caucus luncheons.

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Reference Items:

U.S. Congress. Senate.  Constantino Brumidi: Artist of the Capitol, by Barbara A. Wolanin. 103rd Congress, 2d sess., 1998. S. Doc. 103-27.