Art and Architecture
The main room has an unusual shape, designed in the classical revival style favored by its architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. The ceiling is composed of three types of vaults—two half-barrels, a groin vault at the center, and a curved apse end. Built from masonry, vaults were both stylistically attractive and important for fire-proofing—potentially a factor in the room’s survival of the 1814 Capitol fire. The original décor was simple, including a brick floor and whitewashed walls with painted woodwork. Around the turn of the 20th century, the ceiling was painted with eagle heads, shields, and other decorative motifs seen today. The chandelier, added around 1915, was purchased from Brook Brothers of Washington.
Corinne Claiborne “Lindy” Boggs spent nearly three decades as her husband’s, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, political confidante. After his airplane disappeared without a trace over Alaska in 1972, his seat was declared vacant. Lindy Boggs won his seat in 1973, and she went on to serve nine terms as the first woman elected from Louisiana.
Boggs’s highly refined political skills—her ability to deploy her influence effectively, her connections with fellow Members, and her skill at negotiating compromise—are why this room, where she and her colleagues held innumerable discussions and meetings over the years, bears her name. Her portrait currently hangs in the foyer of the reading room. It includes a small replica of the Car of History clock, one of her favorite pieces of art in the Capitol, to show her deep love of history.
Remembering John Quincy Adams
Referred to as the Adams sofa, this sturdy piece has been in the Capitol since the 1840s. The colloquial name derives from its role in John Quincy Adams’s death. On February 21, 1848, John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke in the adjoining Chamber. “Old Man Eloquent” was carried to the Speaker’s Office, now the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room, where he died two days later. Adams, the nation’s sixth President, served in the House for 16 years after he lost his presidential re-election bid to Andrew Jackson in 1831. He considered his time as a Representative the happiest of his 50 years of public service.
A year after Adams’s death, the House acquired a memorial bust sculpture by John Crookshanks King. Engraved in marble below the bust is the following inscription, said to have been written by Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts:
“John Quincy Adams who, after fifty years of public service, the last sixteen in yonder Hall, was summoned thence to die in this room, 23 February 1848.”
The Botanical Mirror
The 1860s rococo revival mirror over the mantel of the main room arrived in 1962, when the Congresswomen signed a discharge petition to have it moved from their previous lounge space. The petition stated the mirror was “especially meaningful,” and that “no other mirror would be appropriate in our new rooms.” Its design reflects the Victorian-era taste for exuberant ornamentation, with a crest of gilded pineapples and swooping acanthus leaves.