2016 WORLD LUX 6A. 15. UNITED STATES - United States Library of Congress WORLD LUXURY 2016 JPG



United States

Library of Congress




The idea for a reference library for use by Congress came to fruition in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill transferring the government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington.  It was short lived, however, as British troops set fire to the Capitol Building during the War of 1812, burning the contents of the library.  Immediately, past President Thomas Jefferson offered his collection as a replacement.  When, in 1870, the new copyright law required all copyright applicants to send two copies of their work to the library, it rapidly ran out of space.   A new building, based on the design of the Paris Opera House, was constructed in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and it opened its doors to the public in 1897.


With more than 158 million items, including 36 million books and other print materials in 460 languages, 69 million manuscripts, and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings, it continues to provide direct research assistance to the U.S. Congress.


The library consists of three buildings.  The Main Reading Room is located in the original Jefferson Building, which is capped by a 23-carat gold-plated dome.  Open to researchers only, the room contains eight giant marble columns, each supporting 10-foot high allegorical female figures representing features of civilized life and thought.  A painting on the ceiling of a female figure represents Human Understanding lifting the veil of ignorance.  Decorated with mosaics and murals, the entrance hall to the building contains enormous marble staircases leading to the upper floor.  The Art Deco John Adams Building was finished in 1939, and the James Madison Memorial Building in 1980.




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