Becoming Statuary Hall: 1857–Present

A Vacant Hall

Exhibition at the Old Hall of Representatives, Washington, D.C., of Medals Awarded to American Exhibitiors at the Late Paris Exposition/tiles/non-collection/2/2010_187_018-1.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Old Hall of the House occasionally hosted exhibitions and events, such as the display of medals won by Americans and the 1867 International Exposition in Paris.
After the completion of the House wing of the Capitol in 1857, the old, vacant Chamber became both a thoroughfare between the Rotunda and the House wing and a disorganized storage space. 

The Statue Proposal

On April 19, 1864, Representative Justin S. Morrill proposed a new purpose for the room: “To what end more useful or grand, and at the same time simple and inexpensive, can we devote it [the Chamber] than to ordain that it shall be set apart for the reception of such statuary as each State shall elect to be deserving of in this lasting commemoration?”

Statuary Hall Stereoview/tiles/non-collection/2/2013_090_000-4_full.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Taken around 1865, this stereoview captures the room completely vacant, a rare instance of underutilized space in the usually crowded Capitol.

This proposal was enacted into the law creating the National Statuary Hall, on July 2, 1864 (sec. 1814 of the Revised Statutes), the essential part of which specifies that each state would be invited “to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services such as each State may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration; and when so furnished the same shall be placed in the Old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States . . . as a national statuary hall for the purpose herein indicated.”

Overcrowding Issues

Statuary Hall Stereoview/tiles/non-collection/2/2010_016_027_full.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Founding fathers were among the first statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
The concept became so successful that the Hall could soon no longer accommodate all the statues. On February 24, 1933, Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 47 to set standards for the relocation of statues, and to govern the future reception and location of statues.

By 1935, 65 statues were crowded into Statuary Hall. In some places they were lined three deep. In addition to being poorly exhibited, the structure of the Chamber would not accommodate the excessive weight, and there were statues yet to come. So, under authority of the 1933 resolution, it was decided that only one statue from each State should be placed in Statuary Hall. The other statues were displayed in prominent spots throughout the Capitol.

Statuary Hall Today

National Statuary Hall as it looks today./tiles/non-collection/s/statuary-hall-AOC.xml Image courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol National Statuary Hall as it looks today.
A second rearrangement of the statues was made in 1976 by authorization of the Joint Committee on the Library to reduce overcrowding and to improve the aesthetic quality and orderliness of the physical arrangement of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Statues were placed in the east central hall of the East Front extension on the first floor of the Capitol. Other statues were relocated within the corridors, Hall of Columns, and Statuary Hall. Once the Capitol Visitor Center opened in 2008, the collection spread further throughout the buildings that make up the Capitol complex.

Next Section: Statue Collection