The United States Capitol is the seat of the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was completed in the year 1800. The Capitol is the origin point at which the District’s four quadrants meet. The city was laid out around it, although nowadays it is not at the geographic center of the Federal District.
The Capitol’s designer, William Thornton, was chosen among many competitors during a competition proposed by United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in spring 1792. The building shows a distinctive neoclassical style and has a white exterior, alike the principal buildings of the executive and judicial branches. Both its east and west elevations are formally referred to as fronts, although only the east front was intended for the reception of visitors.
The Capitol is surrounded by grounds that cover approximately 1.11 km². Its parks consist mostly of lawns, walkways, streets, drives, and planting areas. It features an artificial grotto and a Summer House to the North of the main building.
In December, 2008, the United States Capitol Visitor Center was inaugurated. This underground, three-level facility is meant to bring all visitors in through one handicap accessible security checkpoint, yards away from the Capitol itself. In 2014, the appearance of the Capitol dome was also altered by the scaffolding erected for the Dome Restoration Project, which is scheduled to be completed by early 2017.