In 1958, the sandstone columns that had supported the east portico of the U.S. Capitol since 1828 were replaced with newer, marble columns. Unsure of what to do with the columns, the U.S. government held them in storage until 1984, when the Department of Agriculture and private donors arranged to display the columns at the National Arboretum.
The Corinthian columns that once towered over the Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln inaugurations in 1829 and 1861 now sit in a stark, open field supporting nothing but air.
The columns are still in immaculate condition, raising the question: Why were they ever removed? When the Capitol’s iron dome was completed in 1864—decades after the completion of the columns—it was larger than design plans intended. The construction of an addition to the Capitol’s east side aimed to minimize the lopsided look of the large dome, leading to the removal of the ornate sandstone columns.
A little known secret is that these Corinthian columns also look down on some of the most stunning cherry blossoms off of the Tidal Basin. Follow the path for a self-guided tour around the columns to see all of the trees in bloom.
Know Before You Go
The Arboretum is located in northeast Washington, D.C., 2.2 miles from the Capitol. It is bordered on the west by Bladensburg Road, on the north by New York Ave., and on the south by M St. Visitor entrances are located on New York Ave. and on R St.