Historical Highlights

The First Meeting of the House in Its Temporary Quarters in the Ways and Means Committee Room

July 05, 1949
The First Meeting of the House in Its Temporary Quarters in the Ways and Means Committee Room Image courtesy of Library of Congress From July 1949 to January 1951, the House Chamber underwent major renovations replacing the desks, rostrum, and general decor.
On this date, the House of Representatives called to order its first meeting in its temporary quarters in the Ways and Means Committee room, in what is today the Longworth House Office Building. During the two-year project to replace the roof and remodel the House Chamber, Representatives vacated the Capitol and met in the large Ways and Means Committee room. Speaker of the House  Sam Rayburn of Texas, a strong proponent of the ambitious effort to modernize the chamber remarked, “I should like to see this gray painted out and put back to gold, that was around here for so many years and that was so beautiful and so attractive to the eye. I do not like coldness when I can have warmth.” The Speaker also proposed installing new seats in the chamber—an initiative backed by the longtime Attending Physician of the House, Dr. George Calver, who believed the old seats posed health hazards to Members. The temporary chamber posed a series of obstacles for Members. “Well, it was just so doggoned informal when the Members would come in, just to find a seat,” recalled Joseph Bartlett who served as a Page Supervisor in 1949, in his oral history. “In order to get as many seats as they could, there was virtually no well. So it was a real tight situation.” A limited number of reporters had access to the House proceedings during the remodeling, but the cramped quarters could not accommodate the public. Moreover, some Representatives complained of the cold temperature in the committee room. The House returned to its renovated chamber for the opening of the 82nd Congress (1951–1953).

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