See how the US Capitol Building could have looked

Washington D.C. has more than its fair share of iconic historic buildings, but few are as eye-catching as the Capitol Building. It’s the symbol of the American government and looms large over the nation’s political landscape as the home of Congress. It dates back to 1800 and was the subject of a design competition that nearly ended in mundane disaster, with George Washington himself left underwhelmed by the imagination shown by the architects who had entered.

Luckily, a man called William Thornton submitted a late entry that had exactly what Washington and Co were looking for, and while it wasn’t exactly the Capitol that we know today, it only needed a few tweaks to his design. But what about all those other plans that so underwhelmed America’s first President? Why not get a taste of what they could have looked like if they had been chosen?

William Thornton

Thornton’s winning design was not his only effort, which is impressive for someone who wasn’t even actually an architect. This was his original plan, which he took to Washington with him, only to hear of the reception that the other entries had received, and of the desire for something a bit more grand. So he came up with another effort that included a much larger dome and the rest is history…

Stephen Hallet

If it wasn’t for Thornton, Hallet might have had the winning design as the best of a bad bunch, and the poor guy had even had to revisit his design FIVE TIMES to try and get it approved, before Thornton’s late design was accepted. He then ended up working on bringing the winning design to life as superintendent of the construction, but seemingly tidying up someone else’s ideas was not enough and he was fired for trying to push through his own suggestions too often.

Andrew Mayfield Carshore

Like Thornton, former British soldier Carshore was an amateur architect, but sadly his design – based around a courtyard, simple windows, and a central pedimented pavilion and portico – which was inspired by the colonial houses he had seen in New England while working as a teacher, was just a bit too underwhelming to build a nation around.

James Diamond

James Diamond was an Irish architect who submitted designs for both the Capitol and the White House and was unsuccessful both times. His designs were based more on the kind of stately homes that you can find back home in Dublin, and that seemingly wasn’t what the likes of George Washington were looking for.

Phillip Hart

Hart’s life story has been lost to history, but his design was certainly an interesting one, with Renaissance influences and a collection of statues on the ramparts. However, it was deemed too whimsical and lacking in basic architectural knowledge, so it seems like he was probably another enthusiastic amateur.

Now that you’ve seen all of the plans and how they could have looked in real life, which is your favorite? Do you think the judges picked the right one?

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