With the passing of a very used paint brush, the House of Representatives took possession Friday of a set of murals depicting the westward expansion of the United States.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) accepted the symbolic, green-spattered brush on behalf of the House, noting that the murals it was used on are part of a two-decade effort to give the walls of the House the highly decorated look that has long embellished the Senate.
The new murals are the last of a series of ceiling and wall paintings depicting the history of the U.S. Capitol, the intellectual achievements of the United States and the growth of the nation.
“There are some days when we will walk through these corridors preoccupied with the problems and the issues of the day, but there will be other times when we will look and enjoy the history painted on these magnificent ceilings,” Foley said.
The dedication of the new murals, paid for by a $250,000 contribution from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, was the first of a series of Capitol Hill events highlighting the Capitol’s two centuries of history.
Today, members of Masonic lodges in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia will re-enact the laying of the Capitol cornerstone by President George Washington in Masonic ceremonies on Sept. 18, 1793.
Congress plans an official observance of that event on Oct. 23. Earlier that day, the 130-year-old statue of Armed Freedom, rehabilitated after nearly five months of repairs, will be returned by helicopter to its roost on top of the Capitol dome.
Seven years of occasional celebrations are planned, ending in November, 2000. That’s the bicentennial of the month in which Congress took up permanent residence in the Capitol building.
Although this year’s anniversary marks the laying of the Capitol cornerstone, the exact location of that rock has proved elusive. Months of searching and digging in the foundations of the building have failed to uncover it.
The new Capitol murals--six large-scale maps and 26 historic images--display the expansion of settlement in the United States from the landing of Europeans on the East Coast.
Six months of research went into the job. Muralist Jeffrey Greene and a team of more than 30 painters brought the job to near completion in nine months.