An Unparalleled Library

20 Jan
January 20, 2011

Washington D.C. certainly has fantastic architecture. No one, though, would consider this town’s buildings to be on par with some of the greatest cities in the world.

There is, however, one building in Washington that can rival any place on Earth in terms of beauty and grace.

The Thomas Jefferson Building, part of the Library of Congress, is a must see for anyone that’s never been, as well as anyone who is interested in visiting one of the most elaborately ornate buildings in America.

Sitting almost directly behind the Capitol, the Thomas Jefferson Building was commissioned in 1886 to hold America’s burgeoning collection of literature.

It took 11 years to complete, and the result is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever set foot in. It was built in the Italian Renaissance style and compares favorably to some of the greatest works from that period.

The building is the size of a city block. Approach it from the west, which is the building’s main entrance, and you’ll be greeted by a giant copper fountain featuring Neptune, the Roman God of the seas, which mimics the infamous Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Behind the fountain, up a flight of stairs, are three massive stone porticos that house the entrances to the building. Above those are 16 columns, rising 40 feet high. These columns support the copper roof, faded to a dull jade.

Upon entering and passing through security, visitors head to the Great Hall, which, despite its size is astounding in its intricacy.

It begins with the marble floor. At the center is a yellow Sun, with tiles of orange, white and yellow spreading out from it, easing into a slate and brown pattern. Around the edges of the floor are brass tiles with signs of the Zodiac carved on them.

Seventy-five feet above the floor is a vaulted ceiling, inlaid with gold leaf, housing six separate stained glass windows.

The entire hall is surrounded by marble walls, staircases and Corinthian columns. Take the stairs up to the top floor. From there it’s possible to look down below at the Great Hall. Also on the top floor is a viewing area to look down at the Library of Congress’ Main Reading Room, which itself is a work of art.

And while the astounding architecture and ornate interior are worth a trip alone, the exhibits at the Library of Congress are just as fascinating. On the ground floor in the Great Hall is the Giant Bible of Mainz, one of the last handwritten bibles still in existence. It was completed in 1453.

On the second floor of the building are revolving exhibits. One current exhibit is the “Road to the Constitution,” which features original letters by Ben Franklin about the Stamp Act and one of the first drafts of the Constitution. A permanent fixture on the floor is Thomas Jefferson’s original library, containing his personal collection of thousands of books from the 1700′s.

This pairing of amazing artifacts and unbelievable architecture make the Thomas Jefferson Building a place everyone needs to visit.

-David

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