The Architecture of the Library of Congress Essay

The Architecture of the Library of Congress Essay

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The Architecture of the Library of Congress

Constructed between 1888 and 1897, the Library of Congress is located in Washington, D.C. at the intersection of 1st St. and Independance Avenue. It's beautiful, large-scale building is comprised mainly of marble, granite, iron, and bronze. The Library's architectural style is reminiscent of that of ancient Greece. It's typical Greek characteristics include columns of the Ionic order, relief sculpture, and statues of Greek god figures, such as Poseidon, god of the sea. These attributes are significantly comparable to those of the altar of Pergamon located in present day Turkey. Housing thousands of books, music, and art collections, the Library of Congress contains numerous reading rooms used by the public people. It is not restricted to use by special officials, but welcomes everybody as it was constructed specifically to serve as the American national library.

The present Library of Congress had a difficult time getting started in its early stages. Originally located in the United States Capitol building between 1806 and 1814(U.S. Government, 1), a fire caused the Library to be relocated to a temporary hotel location. Soon it was replaced into the north wing of the Capitol, and then into the center of the west front (U.S. Government, 2). Unfortunately, another disastrous fire burned the Library and yet again it had to be repaired. The Librarian of Congress at this time in 1865, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, realized the Library was expanding to the point where it would soon need it's own separate building from the Capitol. He drew up an architectural plan in 1872 and presented it to Congress who authorized it.

The new structure, named the Jefferson Building, was elaborately deco...

... middle of paper ...

...nce is that the Library of Congress celebrates mental values while the altar of Pergamon celebrates physical values.

The architecture of the Library of Congress expresses a modern presence of the past. It's similarities to the altar of Pergamon lie in physical appearances and in deeper meanings. Both reflect the beauty of Greek architecture and the values of the people who designed them.


Schwartz, Nancy B. District of Columbia Catalog. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995.

United States Government. "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress." (1996): 1-12.

Allen, William C. The Dome of the United States Capitol: An Architectural History. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992.

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