POTD 2018/087. Library of Congress's Jefferson Building Dome
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018
By J.W. Remington Photographics
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The Library of Congress began in 1800 with a small appropriation to buy reference books. Unlike Philadelphia or New York where Congress had previously met, there were no libraries in the infant city of Washington so one was created out of necessity. To replenish the collection that was destroyed by the British during the War of 1812, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson's 6,487 volume library. From that time the congressional library has steadily grown into what is today the largest in the world.


Until 1897, the Library of Congress was housed in the U.S Capitol's west center building. Despite enlargements and remodeling, there was never space enough to shelve the collections properly and it was decided in 1886 to move the library into its own building. The grand design of the library's Thomas Jefferson Building was based on the Paris Opera House and seemed to proclaim America's faith in learning and knowledge as vital strengths in upholding the republic.


With its synthesis of architecture, art, decoration and ambition, the Library of Congress's Jefferson Building ranks among America's greatest achievements. When it opened in 1897 writers could not find enough ways to herald the new day they saw for American civilization. The grandeur of the building, its size and scope, the noble artwork and fascinating sculpture left many Americans breathless.


Many saw the new building as the fulfillment of American intellectual promise and the perfection of American art. One said that it was "likely to long remain unrivaled in this or any other country," while another opined, "Not until I stand before the judgment seat of God do I ever expect to see this building transcended."


In the late nineteenth century the architectural style of the Jefferson Building was said to be "Italian Renaissance." Today, it is recognized as a premier example of the Beaux Arts style, which is theatrical, heavily ornamented and kinetic. It is a style perfectly suited to a young, wealthy, and imperialistic nation in its Gilded Age. The materials -- marble (15 varieties), granite (400,000 cubic feet), bronze, gold, mahogany -- were expensive but would last a thousand years.


When its doors were opened to the public on November 1, 1897, its entire dome was plated in 23-carat gold-plated dome. Weather and the chemical effects of the 19th century method of tinning the copper beneath the gold leaf dome combined to produce perforations in the copper in the 20th century, and the leaking gilded copper was replaced in October 1931. It was thought that gold leaf would conflict with the appearance of the building's aging granite exterior, and the new copper was left to acquire its current patina. In August 1993, however, the flame of the Torch of Learning at the apex of the dome was regilded, this time time with 23 1/2 carat gold leaf.


1/400 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 115mm


I hope you enjoy today's J.W. Remington Photographics' Photo of the Day for March 28, 2018!


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