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The Original House Office Building Opened for Occupation

December 12, 1908
The Original House Office Building Opened for Occupation Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
An April 14, 1906, ceremony commemorated the laying of the House Office Building cornerstone. Construction was completed in less than two years.
On this date in 1908, the original House Office Building opened for occupation. In the half century that transpired after the Capitol extension in the 1850s, the membership of the House increased by 148, boosting the total to 391 Representatives and taxing the capacity of the Capitol to its limits. To organize the new building, a ceremony previously used for the selection of House Chamber desks, was held on January 9, 1908. A blindfolded Page drew marbles from a bag, which corresponded to a Member's name. The Member then selected his new office from a chart. The Page selected North Carolina Representative Claude Kitchin's number first and the Congressman chose room 430 (present-day room 423). Later named for Speaker Joseph Cannon of Illinois, the Beaux-Arts style building, executed by the architectural firm Carrère and Hastings, was considered the height of luxury for the period. Described by the New York Times just before its opening as a "marble palace that affords its occupants all the comforts and conveniences that can be found in the finest modern hotel,” the new building provided each Member with an office of his own for the first time in the nation’s history. The offices averaged 15 x 23 feet in size, and each came equipped with identical oak and mahogany furniture. Modern conveniences included lavatories with hot and cold water, telephone lines, steam heat, and forced-air ventilation. The House Office Building also provided meeting space for 14 committees.

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Fast Facts

The Cannon House Office Building, completed in 1908 and later named for Speaker Joseph Cannon of Illinois, is the oldest congressional office building. The creation of offices for Members of Congress forever changed how the House of Representatives worked.

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