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A Sneak Peek at the New Capitol Visitor Center

At long last the opening of the new U.S. Capitol Visitor (CVC) Center is in sight, and in preparation for the grand debut, the CVC tour guides have been giving preview tours to select groups.

The impressive $600 million addition is located largely underground on the east side of the Capitol, and stretches nearly five acres. Using many of the same materials as in the main structure (Pennsylvania sandstone walls, pink Tennessee marble floors and gray Virginia granite shipped from nearby Stafford county) gives it the sense that it is an extension of the part of the whole Capitol Building experience. Improvements to the exterior of CVC include newly restored historic fountains, lanterns and the addition of seat walls, water features and eighty five new trees.

Many amenities were designed into the new building to create a more comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for visitors — a restaurant that seats 450, an historical exhibition hall, extra bathrooms and a coat check. Visitors will no longer have to walk to the Senate office buildings to use the restroom or grab a bite.

A 13-minute inspirational film chronicling democracy in the U.S. and the history of the Capitol Building will show in two state-of-the art movie theatres. Upon exiting the theater, visitors will get a glimpse of rarely seen documents that have been brought out of the National Archives. Historical artifacts such as the original typescript of FDR’s Pearl Harbor “Day of Infamy” speech, George Washington’s letter to Congress announcing his victory at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, writings by legendary 19th-century senators Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.

The CVC will open to the public on December 2, 2008 to coincide with the anniversary of the day the Statue of Freedom was installed atop the U.S. Capitol. For more information please visit the CVC website at http://www.aoc.gov/cvc/index.cfm.