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Built through Benjamin Henry Latrobe, it to be a far-reaching architectural achievement, for the size and also structure of its vaulted, semicircular ceiling were virtually unprecedented in the united States. In addition to real estate the supreme Court, this an are later served as a committee room, a law library, a meeting room, and a warehouse room. Today, it has actually been revitalized to that is mid–19th-century appearance.
A masterpiece of architecture and engineering, the Old can be fried Court chamber in the U.S. Capitol was draft by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and built as part of his phibìc wing restoration in 1808-1810. The unexplained ceiling is created by ripe lobed vaults organized by stone ribs supported by heavy brick piers and a three-bay arcade built parallel to the old eastern wall. The brand-new masonry ceiling did not impose any added weight or put brand-new lateral pressure on the old walls and also thus was supported individually of the old work. It to be daring come attempt together a ceiling end a one-story room and also clever for not utilizing the old wall surfaces for support. It is among Latrobe"s most admired achievements.
The can be fried Court very first met in this chamber in 1810 through Chief Justice john Marshall presiding. In 1860 the Court relocated upstairs into the former Senate Chamber and this room was converted into the legislation library. ~ the Court left the Capitol in 1935 this chamber was separated into 4 rooms and also used through the joint Committee on atomic Energy. In the 1960s the chamber had been abandoned and also stood vacant until restored in 1975.
Entrance come the room is gained through the robing room in ~ its southern end. In this room is displayed a bust of roger B. Taney, the nation"s fifth chief justice, who organized the post from 1836 to 1864. The cloak hooks top top the wall opposite the bust bring the names of the judge on the supreme Court native 1858 come 1860 (the brand "Chief" indicates Chief justice Taney).
The room is semicircular and also measures 74 feet 8 inches broad and 50 feet deep. That vaulted ceiling is split into lobes by 10 ribs. The home windows on the eastern wall surface originally looked out on the Capitol Plaza; due to the fact that the mid 20th-century expansion of the Capitol"s eastern front blocked the windows, castle are currently artificially lighted.
Displayed in ~ the behind of the room room busts the the first four chief justices. From southern to north, they space John Marshall, john Rutledge, john Jay and Oliver Ellsworth.
Over the west fireplace hangs a clock ordered for the chamber by chief Justice Taney in 1837. Above the clock is a plaster relief sculpted in 1817 through Carlo Franzoni. The central figure in the relief is Justice, who is seated and holds a pair of scales in she left hand; her right rests upon the hilt of an unsheathed sword. Unlike plenty of depictions of Justice, she attract no blindfold. The winged youth seated next to her is Fame, who holds increase the constitution of the United states under the rays of the climbing sun. At the right side of the sculpture, an eagle protectively rests one foot upon books containing the created laws.
In former of the east arcade room mahogany workdesks for the nine supreme Court justices, collection off native the remainder of the room by a mahogany railing. 7 of these desks are 19th-century originals, believed to have been purchased for the court in the late 1830s. The chairs behind the desks represent various formats used approximately the year 1860; every justice selected the layout of his own chair.
Desks at either finish of the row of justices" desks were provided by court officials. Top top the justices" best sat the attorney General and also the clerk and deputy salesperson of the supreme Court. Top top the justices" left satellite the court reporter, the marshal, and also the deputy marshal.
The floor in the main area the the room is around 1 foot lower than the level ~ above which the justices" desks are placed. In this area stand four baize-covered mahogany tables offered by lawyers presenting cases before the supreme Court. Encountering these tables and lining the area"s western end are the wooden panel-back settees listed for the audience.
A short History
In November 1806 Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the Surveyor of the general public Buildings, ready plans because that rebuilding the internal of the U.S. Capitol"s north wing. Although occupied for only six years, this wing experienced from falling plaster, rotting floors and also a leaking roof. So poor was the original building and construction that, rather than make repairs, Latrobe wished to totally rebuild the interior within the existing brick and sandstone walls. An initial appropriation the $25,000 started the work, which was focused on the eastern fifty percent of the wing. Latrobe demolished the two-story Senate Chamber and the large, loose room above it also as nearby lobbies and also offices. With the space cleared of all previous, inferior work, Latrobe began to rebuild it v solid, fireproof masonry vaulting.
A far-reaching element of Latrobe"s plan was a one-story room top top the soil floor intended come be used by the supreme Court. The accommodation of the court in the Capitol had constantly been taken into consideration a momentary arrangement. Because 1801 the court had actually met in a committee room (now numbered S-146 and S-146A), when a separate building for its usage was believed to be forthcoming. Latrobe could not understand that the supreme Court would continue to re-superstructure quarters with the legislative branch until 1935.
Latrobe"s restoration of the phibìc wing faced serious architectural and also engineering challenges, particularly the require to develop a vaulted room that enforced no structural lots upon the currently walls. His solution to this difficulty was both effective and elegant. Parallel come the east wall he constructed a deep three-bay arcade lugged on sandstone Doric columns modeled on those of the holy place of Poseidon (the shortest, and also thus the strongest, columns that make it through from classic Greece). He also built a semicircular arcade several feet away from the old west wall. These stout new supporting piers carried the room"s many dramatic feature: a lobed, vaulted ceiling the has regularly been likened come an umbrella or a pumpkin. This construction technique, i beg your pardon is similar to medieval practice, decreased the old walls to mere screens.
Regrettably, this impressive engineering feat expense the life of Latrobe"s cook assistant. During building and construction the vault was sustained upon a wooden centering developed by man Lenthall, the salesperson of the Works. Once Lenthall check to remove the centering prematurely, the vault collapsed, crushing the under its weight.
Latrobe"s reputation was severely damaged by this accident, yet he persevered in his efforts to make the Old can be fried Court room both beautiful and durable. Some measure the his success might be checked out in the reality that the chamber made it through the efforts of brother troops to burn it on respectable 24, 1814. For the sake of safety, however, Latrobe dismantled the vault and built it for the 3rd and critical time as component of the repair to the Capitol the he began in 1815.
After Latrobe"s resignation in 1817, work on the chamber ongoing under architect Charles Bulfinch. Bulfinch was able to complete it over time for the court session that started in February 1819.
For the next 41 years, the supreme Court met in this chamber. Throughout that time many landmark decisions to be handed down from the bench, consisting of Trustees the Dartmouth college v. Woodward, Gibbons v. Ogden, and Dred Scott v. Sandford. In 1860 the court relocated upstairs into the room vacated through the Senate. The Old supreme Court Chamber to be then offered as a law library. One 1898 gas explosion in the sub-basement southwest of the chamber, and also the following fire, inflicted some damages on the floors, furnishings, and books in the library. The can be fried Court vacated the Capitol in 1935, and the room was offered for a recommendation library until the 1940s. Native 1955 come 1960 the chamber was assigned to the joint Committee on atom Energy. That was following converted come a storeroom, and also it offered this objective until conference voted because that its repair in 1972.
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Extensive research and also planning preceded the restoration. An 1854 diagram was discovered that verified invaluable in establishing the architectural layout and also furniture setup of the room. A portrait showing Chief justice Marshall seated in the chamber noted visual documentation because that the re-creation the the carpet and also the mahogany rails. A descendant of the clerk of the Court provided Chief righteousness Taney"s desk and the initial marshal"s desk. The can be fried Court and also the Senate Sergeant at Arms transferred cabinets, chairs, desks, and other items previously used by the Court. Original fixtures and also furnishings that might not be located were replicated follow to the best obtainable historical evidence. After year of painstaking work, the revived chamber was opened up to the general public in might 1975. This particular day it is used mostly as a museum, recreating the scene of many far-reaching moments in the advancement of the United states Supreme Court and the judicial history of the nation.