The Senate
United States Capitol
The center of American Democracy

The Senate

Second Floor


Posted August 2022

The Senate:

The Senate Chambers:
In the United States Senate all states are represented equally. Regardless of size or population, each state has two senators, who serve six-year terms. Unlike the House of Representatives, where all members must stand for election every two years, only one-third of the Senate's seats are filled with each general election. Longer, overlapping Senate terms provide Congress with stability and continuity, and lessen the immediate pressure of public opinion on members of the Senate.

The ConstitutionArticle 1, Section 3:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

Brumidi Corridors
The Brumidi Corridors
Painted by Constantino Brumidi and a team of European painters between 1857 and 1859 (with additions continuing through the ‘70's), the decoration is dominated by multiple trompe l'oeil polychrome panels. The walls are painted to look as if they were divided into panels surrounded by three-dimensional carved stone moldings with colored inlays of red and turquoise. The interiors of the trompe l'oeil panels are richly ornamented in extraordinary variety including trompe l'oeil rinceaux and candelabra appointed with a dazzling array of detail including plants, flowers, birds, small mammals, and insects.

Brumidi Corridors:
The Brumidi Corridors are composed of five different hallways, known as the main, west, inner, north, and Patent corridors. They are the richly painted hallways on the first floor of the Senate wing in the Capitol Building. These corridors are some of the most artistically ornate and creatively decorated hallways in the nation. The decorative wall paintings were designed by Italian artist Constantino Brumidi. Brumidi has been called "the Michelangelo of the Capitol" by historians.

Constantino Brumidi worked in the Capitol for over 25 years, using his talents as a fresco artist to decorate the Senate corridors and numerous other areas throughout the building.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Room
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Rooms (S-116 and S-117) :
During the nineteenth century, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met in a variety of rooms in the United States Capitol. Following World War I, these accommodate the committee's expanding responsibilities. In 1933 the committee moved into its current suite in the Capitol. While the Foreign Relations Committee maintains several offices spread over four buildings, the two rooms in the Capitol have become symbolic of the committee and its work.

Located in the northeast corner of the Senate extension, built between 1851 and 1868 these rooms, S-116 and S-117, were first occupied around 1859 with the completion of the new Senate wing of the Capitol. Until their assignment to the Foreign Relations Committee, the rooms housed a variety of tenants. Former occupants, whose names are reflective of the concerns of a growing nation, included the committees on Retrenchment, Patents, Agriculture, Immigration, Territories, Female Suffrage, and Naval Affairs. At the turn of the century, S-116 even served as the Senate's post office.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee uses these rooms to receive visiting dignitaries and to conduct national security briefings and hearings in executive session.

The LBJ Room
Lyndon B. Johnson Room (S-211)
Now named the Lyndon B. Johnson Room, S-211 was intended to be the Senate Library but was first used by the Senate Post Office. In recent years the room has been used for Senate meetings such as party caucuses and conferences.

The center of the ceiling contains a medallion of acanthus leaves with striped shields in the corners. Borders of morning glories on dark red fields encircle four lunettes painted in true fresco featuring allegorical figures which represent Geography, History, Telegraph and Physics.

The chandelier is believed to have been purchased for the White House during President Grant's administration. It was removed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 and sent to the Capitol where, for many years, it hung in S–211. Lyndon Johnson had it moved to the Senate connecting corridor in 1958. Several years later, the fixture was loaned to the White House for placement in the Treaty Room. Amid much publicity - and with some White House reluctance - the chandelier was returned to the Capitol in 1977 and reinstalled in S–211.

Old Supreme Court Chamber
The Old Supreme Court Chamber:
Built by Benjamin Henry Latrobe as part of his north wing reconstruction in 1808-1810, it was a significant architectural achievement for the size and structure of its vaulted, semicircular ceiling were virtually unprecedented in the United States.

The Supreme Court first met in this chamber in 1810 with Chief Justice John Marshall presiding. In 1860 the Court moved upstairs into the former Senate Chamber and this room was converted into the law library. The Court moved out of the Capitol building in 1935.

In addition to housing the Supreme Court, this space later served as a committee room, a law library, a meeting room, and a storage room. Today, it has been restored to its mid–19th-century appearance.

Regrettably, this impressive engineering feat cost the life of Latrobe's chief assistant. During construction the vault was supported upon a wooden centering built by John Lenthall, the Clerk of the Works. When Lenthall attempted to remove the centering prematurely, the vault collapsed, crushing him under its weight.

The President
The President's Room:
One of the most ornate rooms in the Capitol. The room was completed in 1859 as part of the Capitol's vast extension, which added new Senate and House wings and the new cast-iron dome. Presidents used the room to sign legislation into law at the close of each session of Congress. This practice ended in 1933 with the passage of the 20th Amendment, which established different ending dates for presidential and congressional terms of office.

In 1789 President George Washington wrote to the United States Senate recommending a chamber "for the joint business of the President and the Senate." Although the Capitol's early architects planned for such a room, it was not until extensions were added to the building in the 1850s that one was finally built.

Senate chaplains office round window
The Senate chaplain's office has a rare oval window
it is one of the very few that still opens.

Senate chaplains office oval window

The Senate Vestibule
The Senate Vestibule:
After the House of Representatives moved to the newly constructed south wing in 1807, a complete renovation of the north wing was begun. During this work, Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe designed a vaulted fireproof ceiling for the Senate Vestibule. To support the weight of the vaults, Latrobe introduced six sandstone columns carved by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Franzoni. Rather than simply adopting traditional Greek or Roman column motifs, Latrobe chose to "Americanize" them with capitals featuring ears of corn and shafts carved to resemble bundles of corn stalks.

Corn Capitals

Ears of Corn:
As Latrobe reported to former President Jefferson in August 1809: "These capitals during the summer session obtained me more applause from members of Congress than all the works of magnitude or difficulty that surround them. They christened they the ‘corncob capitals'.

In August 1814, during the war with Great Britain, invading troops burned the Capitol and destroyed most of its interior. In the north wing, fire gutted the Senate and Supreme Court Chambers and badly damaged the great staircase that once occupied the nearby Small Senate Rotunda. Because of its vaulted construction, however, the Senate Vestibule survived relatively unscathed. Latrobe was relieved to discover that his corncob columns were unharmed. Thus, they are among the oldest architectural features in the Capitol.