East and West Fronts

By the mid-twentieth century the Virginia sandstone used to face the Capitol's center building had become seriously deteriorated and its details had become obscured under many layers of paint. To solve these cosmetic problems, and gain coveted office space as well, it was proposed to build marble-faced additions to the East and West Fronts. An east extension (first suggested in 1863) would also provide the iron dome a greater sense of structural support. House Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas singlehandedly secured the money needed to build the east extension, which was completed in 1962. The west front project, however, was greeted by a storm of protest from the architectural and historic preservation communities when it was proposed in 1964. After years of rancorous debate, Congress rejected the extension and ordered the restoration of the West Front, which was undertaken 1983-1987.