The Tiny Doors In The US Capitol Building

There’s been a lot of hub-bub around the US Capitol Building lately.

US Capitol Building

But would you like to learn a little known fact about the Capitol’s architecture?

US Capitol's tiny doors

There are actually tiny doors located throughout the Capitol Building!

US Capitol's tiny doors

House Crazy Sarah was delighted to find out about these mysterious pint-sized portals that can be found along the lower walls of the venerated building.

tiny doors inside the US Capitol Building

But what purpose do they serve? Surely they are not just fanciful decoration by the original architects having some fun.

tiny doors in the US Capitol

No, the charming doll doors actually serve an invaluable purpose.

tiny doors inside the US Capitol Building

Here’s the back-story as paraphrased from the Architect of The Capitol blog:

The tiny doors’ existence began after a fire on Christmas Eve of 1851. At that time the Library of Congress was housed in the Capitol Building and unfortunately, the fire spread throughout the two-story Library. The blaze devastated the Library’s collection and thirty-five thousand volumes were destroyed.

851 fire at the US Library of Congress

Approximately two-thirds of the books from Thomas Jefferson were gone. Manuscripts, maps and other artwork had been consumed by the fire, which was later determined to have been caused by a spark from a fireplace in the room below the Library.

The fear of future fires motivated Congress to fund a critically needed reliable water supply for Washington, D.C.

Captain Montgomery C. Meigs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was assigned by the War Department to manage the project. He subsequently engineered the Washington Aqueduct, an elaborate system that brought fresh water from the Potomac River into the city and into the pipes hidden behind the Capitol’s tiny doors.

tiny doors in the US Capitol

These small doors and the water sources they housed, stood ready to provide water to prevent any future fire from spreading. They also ensured the mud tracked in from Washington’s dirt streets could be easily cleaned from the Capitol’s floors.

That’s why the doors stand only about 30 inches tall: they conceal low, shallow closets where workers filled pails of water to mop the floors.

tiny doors in the US Capitol

How amazing is that?

House Crazy Sarah has been inside the US Capitol building before, but she never noticed any of these adorable tiny doors. Probably because she was too busy looking up:

the US Capitol dome

But if she ever gets back there, her eyes are going to be down on the baseboards, scouting for these magical, historic tiny doors.




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