What the Coins Commemorate
The coins were authorized to commemorate Congress convening in the Capitol Building in 1800.
The Capitol Visitor Center
Ever since George Washington laid its cornerstone, the U.S. Capitol building has been the definitive symbol of America’s democracy. In keeping with the values of our democracy, the Capitol Building–the workplace of our legislature–is open to the public, receiving over 5 million visitors a year.
When Congress first gathered in this building on November 17, 1800, the sparse population and woodland surroundings of Washington, D.C. inspired some to call it a “palace in the wilderness.” The members of this original gathering could hardly have envisioned the volume of visitors the building would host 200 years later.
To receive these visitors better, the Capitol building needed a secure place that offered guests comfort, information and assistance, and enough space to accommodate the crowds who come to see democracy in action.
Under the guidance of Congressional leaders in the Capitol Preservation Commission, plans were drawn up for a visitors’ center (http://www.senate.gov/coins.html) on the East Front of the Capitol. On June 20, 2000, ground was broken for the Capitol Visitor Center, the first step toward its planned completion in 2005.
The 446,000-square-foot visitor center will contain space for interactive and multi-media exhibits in many languages, food service, security and storage, and will allow access to the Capitol building. Able to accommodate 5,000 visitors at a time, it will allow about 1,500 people per hour to tour the main Capitol Building. Another 700 people per hour will be able to visit the House and Senate galleries.