World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

United States Senate chamber

Article Id: WHEBN0033497199
Reproduction Date:

Title: United States Senate chamber  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: United States Senate, Candy Desk, Ford House Office Building, Seniority in the United States Senate, Traditions of the United States Senate
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

United States Senate chamber

Class photo of the 111th United States Senate inside the chamber, 2010.

The United States Senate chamber is a room in the north wing of the United States Capitol that serves as the legislative chamber of the United States Senate, since January 4, 1859.[1] The Senate first convened in its current meeting place after utilizing Federal Hall, Congress Hall, and the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol building for the same purpose.[1]

The chamber, designed by then-Architect of the Capitol Thomas Ustick Walter, is a rectangular two-story room with 100 individual desks, one per Senator, on a multi-tiered semicircular platform facing a central rostrum in the front of the room. The Senate floor itself is overlooked on all four sides by a gallery on the second floor. The Senate floor itself is 80 ft (24 m) by 113 ft (34 m).[2]

Origin and history

The Senate convened, beginning in 1790, in a second-floor chamber in Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until moving into the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol building in 1800. From 1810 to 1859, the Senate utilized the Old Senate Chamber for legislative functions.[1]

During this time, the Senate nearly doubled in size as new states were admitted to the Union. In light of the increased size of both houses of congress, two new wings were added on to the United States Capitol. Beginning in 1851, the Capitol underwent several expansions including the new wings and their respective chambers, as well as a new dome.[1]

Design and construction

In addition to expanding the space available for the Senate's use, the chamber's designers were concerned that the room have acoustical and line-of-sight qualities comparable to those of a theater. The construction of the chamber began in 1851 and continued until senators began utilizing the room for legislative business in 1859. Shortly after beginning to utilize the chamber, however, senators noted the poor acoustic qualities, the sounds created by rain as it hit the glass-paneled ceiling, and uncomfortable drafts of air throughout the room.[3]

The general design of the chamber, a rectangular, two story room in the center of the Capitol's north wing, includes 100 individual desks on a tiered platform. This platform, semi-circular in shape, faces a raised rostrum in the front of the room. On all four sides of the chamber's second level, a visitor's gallery overlooks the Senate floor.[2] The Senate first allowed visitors to observe proceedings in 1795. The galleries for observing the Senate, including a women's gallery, became popular destinations for tourists and residents alike throughout the nineteenth century. Above the presiding officer's desk at the rostrum was the press gallery. Here, reporters are able to observe and cover the proceedings of the Senate.[1]

Early usage

US Senate chamber c1873
Because of the chamber's theater-like qualities and size, numerous requests were made and fulfilled to use the chamber for functions other than that of legislation. In 1863, the chamber was used for a presentation of a narrative poem ("The Sleeping Sentinel") about a Union Army soldier, William Scott, who had fallen asleep at his post and was sentenced to be shot. Among the audience for the performance was the then-President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who had actually pardoned the sentinel months earlier.[3]

Senators grew tired of the competition for the chamber's usage, however, and allowed the final non-legislative usage of the chamber, a lecture on post-Civil War reconstruction, before enacting a rule dictating that the chamber would not be used for any purpose other than that of the United States Senate.[3]

In 1923, practicing physician and former commissioner of the New York City Board of Health Royal Copeland began his first term in the Senate. He quickly noted the poor quality of the air in the chamber, arguing that the premature deaths of 34 serving senators over the previous 12 years were caused by the overly hot and poorly humidified air, which he blamed for the spread of common illnesses during the winter and the general discomfort of the chamber during the summer. In June 1924, the Senate voted to adopt a measure by Copeland to improve the "living conditions of the Senate Chamber." Carrere & Hastings, the architectural firm that had designed the Russell Senate Office Building, submitted a plan for the improvements, to include removing interior walls and lowering the ceiling, which was subsequently approved by the Senate on May 11, 1928. On May 16, however, Copeland requested the indefinite postponement of his proposal in light of a new ventilation system that received the endorsement of experts in public health. The "manufactured weather" ventilation system, designed by Carrier Corporation, was completed in 1929 - the Senate's first air conditioning system.[4]

Modern design and usage

North wing of the Capitol, containing the Senate Chamber.

1949–50 reconstruction

In 1949-1950, the Senate Chamber underwent a reconstruction that involved the removal of the skylight and a redesign of the room's walls. In place of the chamber's original cast-iron pilasters, newer red Levanto marble pilasters were installed. The wooden rostrum was replaced with a newer, larger version made of marble. The iron and glass ceiling, including the skylight, was replaced with a ceiling of stainless steel and plaster. This redesign, in addition to improving the acoustic properties of the room, was to update the room's mid-nineteenth century decor, which was then out of date.[2]

Photography in the chamber

United States Congress, the Photographic Studio of the Senate is charged with taking the official photo of the Senate.[1]

Television coverage of the Senate

Beginning in 1979, the House of Representatives began televising coverage of its daily sessions live on the network C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network). Senators originally opposed televised coverage of the daily sessions of the Senate, many expressing concern that televising proceedings would change significantly the conduct of the legislative process. In 1986, however, Senate floor leaders Bob Dole and Robert Byrd officially proposed live television coverage of the Senate. On June 2 of the same year, daily proceedings began broadcasting on the C-SPAN 2 network.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Senate Chamber 1859-2009". United States Senate. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "U.S. Capitol Senate". Architect's Virtual Capitol. Office of the Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "1851-1877 Constructing a Senate Theater". United States Senate. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "1921-1940 Senators Vote to Knock Out Walls". United States Senate. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 

External links

  • United States Senate official website
  • Senate Chamber — History of the Senate's meeting places
  • U.S. Capitol Virtual Tour - The Senate Chamber
  • Senate Chamber — Architect's Virtual Capitol
  • Senate Chamber Desks — History of Senate desks
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.