Events · Libraries · Library · Reviews

The Library of Congress a Historical Masterpiece

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By Molly Korroch

Living in D.C., we are incredibly lucky to have one of the most amazing and thorough research libraries at our front door. The Library of Congress is equal parts museum, architectural masterpiece, and library.

Walking through the United States Library of Congress is like walking through time. Though this point may seem moot, John Adams established the library for it’s literal purpose: to house reference books for the congress. This occurred in 1800, and of course, within fifteen years, the British had come and burned the whole thing down during the War of 1812.

Soon after, then former President Thomas Jefferson donated his personal library. This collection served as the beginning of the massive—including over 158 million pieces—library we enjoy today.

The library is actually comprised of three buildings. The grandest is the aptly named Thomas Jefferson Building. The building opened to the public in 1897, and before that the collection was housed in the Capitol building.

The architecture of the building is a monument to the volumes it houses. It borrows styles from every corner of history. The intention was to create an amalgamation of the best of the best. On your visit, pay close attention and you’ll see references to famed thinkers, writers, and historical works in every nook and cranny of the building.

The main architect, Paul J. Pelz, created a building, “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.”

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Fast Facts

Place: The Jefferson Building of The Library of Congress

General theme: You name it, they’ve got it. Also, marble upon marble upon marble.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years

Food/Drink: Vending machines and a little coffee shop on the cellar level

Wifi: Yes and No. Check out this list to find out where Wifi is available

Events: Amazing exhibits! Remember those books Thomas Jefferson donated? You can see them! Right now there’s an exhibit on World War I and an exhibit about the history of music in baseball

Appointment necessary: Depends on what you’re researching! Here is a list that includes the hours and whether or not an appointment is necessary for all the Library of Congress reading rooms

If this place were band: Billy Joel — Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (If ever there were an architecturally overdone American amalgamation, this is it.) 

Images via Al Jazeera and The Library of Congress
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