Library of Congress

Libraries and bookstores are one of Washington's big draws.  The Library of Congress is the mother lode - it's the world's largest library and the US's national library - with over 115 million items on 965 kilometers (600 miles) of shelves!


Rooms to read   Congress appropriated funds for a library in 1800.  Unfortunately it was destroyed by the British when they sacked the Capitol in 1814.  

Thomas Jefferson's personal library then became the nucleus of the new collection.  The imposing granite 1897 Beaux Arts Jefferson Building has a ceremonial Corinthian portico, and sculpted busts of men of letters gazing down.  

For many scholars, sitting in the Main Reading Room at the mahogany reader's tables 48.8 meters (160 feet) below the domed ceiling is an almost spiritual experience.  

The art deco Adams Building was completed in 1939, the modern Madison Building opposite in 1980.


Mot just books   Holdings in the Jefferson, Madison, and Adams buildings, clustered between 1st and 3rd streets on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, include the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the evening he was shot, original scores by Beethoven and Brahms, props belonging to Houdini, and original drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Gettysburg Address.  

(I couldn't get into the Main Reading Room as the current president was giving a speech for an exhibition of Winston Churchill's life.)

The facade of the Library of Congress.

One of the Smaller Reading Rooms!


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