Getting together—with colleagues, constituents, press, staff—has long been a vital part of the legislative process. From its earliest days, the Capitol has provided for this need with a range of meeting spaces. Some, like the Members’ Dining Room, are open to all visitors. Others, including the Speaker’s Lobby and the Lindy Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room, are off the beaten path. Go behind the scenes to explore the history and contents of these spots here.
The historic space where Congresswomen now gather to meet and refresh, located off of Statuary Hall, is one of the oldest parts of the Capitol. It also served as an office for Speakers, Clerks of the House, and Committees.
As far back as 1834, Congress made arrangements for food and drink in the Capitol. The relatively undeveloped neighborhood and the Congress’s regimented work schedule made the availability of food on site a necessity. In a room referred to as the “refectory,” local restaurateurs served menus of popular favorites such as oysters, beefsteak, and partridge, along with coffee, tea, beer, and spirits.
Just across from the Democratic Cloakroom, the Rayburn Reception Room is a relative newcomer to the Capitol. It was completed in 1962 as part of the East Front extension and dedicated to Speaker Sam Rayburn, who promoted the building project.
The creation of the airy, stately space known as the Speaker’s Lobby and Members' Retiring Room was motivated not by a need for a mingling room, but for ventilation. The open rooms just outside the House Chamber that are now the Speaker's Lobby and Members' Retiring Room were initially divided in three, housing a Post Office and individual offices for the Speaker and the Sergeant at Arms.
The small room tucked away on the first floor of the Capitol became famous in the 20th century as the “Board of Education,” where House leaders met to relax and share information and strategy.