Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Washington, D.C.

Capitol Tile Room

In the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building is a hidden storage room full of ornate floor tiles leftover from the 1850s. 

Deep in the vaulted belly of the Capitol Building there’s one unusual room stacked full of ornate floor tiles, leftover from the 1850s expansion. The tiles are a part of a set imported from Italy during the Civil War to decorate the fantastic Brumidi Corridors on the first floor of the Senate wing.

The Brumidi Corridors are highly ornate spaces that were architecturally based on Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican. Unlike the heavily trafficked corridors above, the basement tile storage room has a layer of dust and obscurity that suggest they may have been entirely forgotten about.

The tile room is at the end of a winding labyrinth of century-old passageways which gives the place a major Nicholas Cage/National Treasure vibe. Members of the public won’t have a chance getting in, but Capitol Hill interns and staffers who sweet talk facilities employees might get a special off-the-record tour.

These tiles are not forgotten. They are kept as replacements, in the event that some of the tiles in the Brumidi cooridor are damaged. There are additional rooms that have other miscellaneous, but important items, kept for long term storage. Another example is the Minton tiles used on the House side of the Capitol. These tiles are very old, and irreplaceable.