In the House chamber, the door to the Speaker’s left and another to the Speaker’s right provide access to the Speaker’s Lobby.
After the House moved to the new south wing of the Capitol in 1857, the Speaker’s Office occupied space behind the chamber, in the center section of what is now the Member’s Retiring Room.
Montgomery C. Meigs, supervising engineer of the Capitol extension, noted that these rooms would be “very convenient and very beautiful…and on each side a retiring room; thus affording to each of the great parties…a room for consultation.” Original features that remain today include bronze cherub-shaped sconces, Tennessee marble fireplace mantels designed by Architect of the Capitol Thomas U. Walter, and the colorful Minton floor tiles.
In 1879, the House attempted to remedy longstanding ventilation problems by opening the entire area behind the chamber, including the Office of the Speaker, who moved to another room near the chamber. Virtually all the walls in the rooms behind the chamber were removed. This new airy space became the lounge known as the Member’s Retiring Room adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby.
A Curator’s Tour of the Speaker’s Lobby
Portraits of former Speakers, known as the Speaker Portrait Collection and a vital visual record of House history, hang in the Speaker’s Lobby. The collection was conceived as a “tribute to their worth to the nation.” It began informally with artist Giuseppe Fagnani’s 1852 donation of his portrait of Speaker Henry Clay. This initial gift was followed by more donations. In 1910, the House mandated that it must acquire an oil portrait of every Speaker “of whom no acceptable portrait was in possession of the House.” Posthumous portraits were commissioned to commemorate the missing Speakers, and every Speaker since 1910 has had a portrait made. The entire collection now hangs in the Speaker’s Lobby and adjoining stairwells.
Also see Capitol; Chamber; Speaker; Visiting Washington, DC; “What’s the deal with …“; What Your Member of Congress Can Do for You; § 11.13 View of the Speaker’s Dais, Floor of the House, and Galleries, in Congressional Deskbook.
- Speaker Portrait Collection – House
- Speaker’s Lobby and Members’ Retiring Room – House
- “The Last Gasp of a Smoke-Filled Room?” by Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post, December 8, 2006
- “One-Minute Speeches: Current House Practices,” CRS Report RL30135 (12-page PDF)
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CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net
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