New Capitol Visitor Center

The Capitol Visitor Center opened to the public on Tuesday. From its inception, the center was conceived as an extension of the Capitol that will welcome visitors to the seat of the United States government. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the center is the largest project in the Capitol's 215-year history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility on the east side of the Capitol is located underground to blend with the grounds designed in 1874 by fame

The Capitol Visitor Center opened to the public on Tuesday. From its inception, the center was conceived as an extension of the Capitol that will welcome visitors to the seat of the United States government. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the center is the largest project in the Capitol's 215-year history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility on the east side of the Capitol is located underground to blend with the grounds designed in 1874 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. A towering plaster model for the bronze Statue of Freedom that was mounted on the building's dome 145 years ago stands at the entrance to a 16,500-square-foot exhibition about the history of Congress and the Capitol.

The center opened to mixed reviews. Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher called it "a travesty and a triumph." He wrote that "as a public works project and an expenditure of the taxpayers' money, the Visitor Center is an obscenity. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste called it ‘among the most wasteful examples of botched construction projects ever promulgated by the federal government.' The center is going to cost us more than $620 million. But as a station on the Washington tourist circuit, as a museum of American civics, and as a demonstration of how to blend education and entertainment without insulting the intelligence of the citizenry, the Visitor Center is a smash hit."

Visitors to the U.S. Capitol can now find expanded information on the Capitol Visitor Center Web site at: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov.