National Treasury | Marble Architecture

Washington D.C. was established in 1790 when an act of Congress authorized a federal district along the Potomac River. The area of land measured 100 square miles in which to build a federal center that would facilitate the new government. George Washington enlisted Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a well established French engineer and architect to draw the plans for a grand capitol.


L’Enfant was given the great opportunity to imagine a capitol from scratch as the land proclaimed as Washington D.C. was mainly cow pastures and marsh land. We can still see many of L’Enfant’s envisions today, from the grid streets named after each state, wide avenues, and many public squares. In fact, one of L’Enfant’s main ideas was to create to the “public walk” in as the centerpiece of the town where all citizens could gather to express and exchange ideas with the nations leaders. Today, this is known as the two mile long National Mall, which stretches from Capitol Hill to the Potomac River and is topped with the historic Washington Monument.


The beauty of Washington D.C. is the expression of leadership, historical influence, and democratic values through its architecture. The neoclassical principles of simplicity and symmetry are seen from the White House to the Capitol Building, where you can see inspiration drawn from Greek and Roman civilizations. The tall marble columns move the eye upward, while the intricate details of the facade add visual interest.


Sandstone was primarily used during the initial construction in 1790 as the infrastructure and technology to transport marble was not yet available. However, by 1816 marble was being quarried and transported across country by railroad and even shipped across the Atlantic Ocean from the Carrara Region in Italy. The floor-to-ceiling marble design of the capitol building was achieved with the help of nearly one dozen states.


Marble is often favored among sculptors to create works of art as it is composed of fine grain that make it easier to sculpt details. Marble is easy to care for and can be used indoors or outdoors and grows more durable as it ages. The Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider are two of the most recognizable sculptures in Washington D.C., both with marble provided by the Yule Marble Quarry in Colorado.



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