On December 2, 2008, the long-awaited United States Capitol Visitor Center opened to the public. The CVC is the largest addition to our nation’s Capitol in its 215-year history.
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By Congressman Michael Turner

On December 2, 2008, the long-awaited United States Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) opened to the public.  The CVC is the largest addition to our nation’s Capitol in its 215-year history.  It is designed to provide a safe and convenient environment for the millions of visitors who come each year to walk the Capitol’s historic corridors and see the democratic process in action.

The CVC is a vast underground complex located on the east side of the Capitol. This 580,000-square-foot expanse contains a 530-seat cafeteria, two theaters featuring a 13-minute orientation film, and two gift shops.  At the entrance, visitors will be greeted by Thomas Crawford’s original 19½ foot plaster cast of the Statue of Freedom. The statue was placed atop the newly-completed Capitol Dome on December 2, 1863. The CVC’s grand opening coincides with the 145th anniversary of the day the Statue of Freedom was placed on the Dome. In anticipation of the Capitol Visitor Center’s grand opening, Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation that I cosponsored (HR 3315), naming the main entrance of the CVC “Emancipation Hall,” in recognition of the important role of African-Americans who helped build the Capitol. 

Among the many exhibits and historic artifacts on display in the CVC include the trowel and marble gavel used by George Washington to lay the Capitol’s cornerstone in 1793; a copy of legislation establishing the U.S. Navy in 1798, Henry Clay’s notes for the Compromise of 1850; an 11-foot model of the Capitol Dome, and the “Lincoln catafalque.” The catafalque is a wooden structure that was built to hold President Lincoln’s casket while his body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in 1865. It has since been used on other solemn occasions when presidents and military leaders have lain in state in the Rotunda. 

In order to visit the House and Senate chambers, gallery passes are required.  These passes may be obtained through my office. Guided tours of the Capitol will begin and end in the Capitol Visitor Center. The CVC is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. There is no charge to enter the CVC or to take a tour of the Capitol. It is recommended that you plan to allow at least 90 minutes for your visit to the visitors center and to tour the Capitol. Reservations must be placed in advance either through my office or through the CVC website, which may be accessed at: www.visitthecapitol.gov.

On this historic occasion of the CVC’s grand opening, I’d like to remind you that in addition to the Capitol, my office can arrange a number of tours of Washington’s must-see sites, including the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Supreme Court and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. If you or your family are planning a visit the Washington, DC area in the near future and would like to see the new, state-of-the-art Capitol Visitor Center and take a tour the Capitol, my office can help to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. Feel free to contact my Washington office at 202-225-6465. You can also call my local offices in Dayton at 937-225-2843 or in Wilmington at 937-383-8931, and ask to be connected to the Washington office.  There is also a wealth of information on my website, which could be helpful to you in planning your trip to Washington.