Library of Congress

Washington, D.C., United States

The Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress, but which is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The Library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The library is the second-largest library in the world by collection size.

The Library of Congress moved to Washington in 1800, after sitting for eleven years in the temporary national capitals of New York and Philadelphia. The small Congressional Library was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century until the early 1890s. Most of the original collection had been destroyed by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812. To restore its collection in 1815, the library bought from former president Thomas Jefferson his entire personal collection of 6,487 books.

After a period of slow growth, another fire struck the Library in its Capitol chambers in 1851, again destroying a large amount of the collection, including many of Jefferson's books. The Library of Congress then began to grow rapidly in both size and importance after the American Civil War and a campaign to purchase replacement copies for volumes that had been burned from other sources, collections and libraries (which had started to appear throughout the burgeoning United States). The Library received the right of transference of all copyrighted works to have two copies deposited of books, maps, illustrations and diagrams printed in the United States. It also began to build its collections of British and other European works and then of works published throughout the English-speaking world.

This development culminated in the construction between 1888 and 1894 of a separate, extensive library building across the street from the Capitol, in the Beaux Arts style with fine decorations, murals, paintings, marble halls, columns and steps, carved hardwoods and a stained glass dome. It included several stories built underground of steel and cast iron stacks.



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Founded: 1800
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in United States

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User Reviews

Augusto Cangahuala (4 months ago)
Loved our visit. The architecture is breathtaking and the history of this place is captivating. The staff are also very nice and willing to share their knowledge with all visitors. We learned a lot during our visit and can't wait to come back.
Swadhapriya Sarma (4 months ago)
The Library of Congress is an intellectual haven that celebrates the pursuit of knowledge and the power of words. Its grandeur and vast collections are breathtaking, from historic manuscripts to modern literature. Walking through the reading rooms, I felt a sense of reverence for the scholars who've immersed themselves in its riches. The Jefferson Building's architecture is a work of art in itself, reflecting the significance of the written word. The exhibitions are thought-provoking, shedding light on diverse topics. The Library's commitment to preserving the world's cultural heritage is inspiring. A visit is an invitation to explore history, ideas, and imagination, leaving a lasting impression on any avid learner.
Alex Parmar (5 months ago)
One of the great historical place to visit in DC. It is free attraction but need a to book admission time in advance. Many time you can find availability in next hour or so as well. We entered through the tunnel after our capitol visit. If you want to explore throughly you need a good amount of time as it is a massive. On wall there are hundreds of wisdom quotes and multiple levels to explore with gallery. If you can start your day early and manage time you can do capitol, library and attend suprem court lecture on a same day. Street paid Parking is 5 to 7 min walk on 101 Constitution Ave NW street after building.
Dan Quine (5 months ago)
The free tour of the world's largest library is well worth taking. You can see a Gutenberg Bible, the first map to name America, the extraordinary main reading room and much more. A beautiful building and a wonderful set of exhibits.
Ju (6 months ago)
Absolutely stunning! The Library of Congress is a must see in DC! The architecture is gorgeous and tells a story of so much history. Multiple sections to explore and every section was very insightful. Walking around the Library of Congress simply feels majestic
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