Senate Park

The Capitol is usually viewed from the west front facing the Mall, or the east front where members of Congress and visitors arrive. But there’s also a wonderful view of the Capitol from the Senate Park on the north side. The park was closed for several years for renovation, and reopened a few months ago restored to its original beauty.

The fountain

The large fountain is the centerpiece of the park, and is especially beautiful at night lit by 114 underground colored lights.

©Angela N.

The fountain system consists of three elements. First is the main fountain, a hexagonal granite structure with a central jet and smaller lion-headed spouts on each side.

©Angela N.

The water runs down from the fountain at the top level to a row of three “bubbler” fountains on a lower level, with a 30,000 gallon surge tank underneath them.

©Victoria Pickering

The water next goes into a large reflecting pool, and is then pumped back up to the upper fountain.

©Angela N.

The landscaping

The park’s plantings look wonderful in all seasons:

©Angela N.
©Angela N.
©Angela N.

Some of the trees, similar to elsewhere in the Capitol grounds, have been donated to honor individuals and organizations.

©Angela N.

Demonstrations and rallies

For demonstrations, the park is divided into six permitted areas. The most popular areas are at the front of the park with a view of the Capitol. The events held here tend to be ones with a strong policy focus – such as on the economy, voting, or education – and often feature members of Congress speaking.

Representative John Sarbanes speaking about voting rights legislation. ©Victoria Pickering

History and reconstruction

The grounds for the park were acquired by the government in the early 1900’s, extending across Constitution Avenue from the Capitol all the way to Union Station. The park was authorized by Congress in 1929 and finished in 1932. The park sits on top of an underground parking garage – the first underground garage on Capitol Hill – that is for Congressional officials.

The recent reconstruction of the park restored the landscape and fountains, but also was necessary for major reconstruction on the underground parking garage, including concrete and waterproofing repairs.

1931 view of the park under construction. Credit: Architect of the Capitol

The park was behind fencing for most of the reconstruction process. Here’s a view taken through a gap in the fencing when the reconstruction was close to finishing.

©Victoria Pickering

There are elaborate details on some of the stone walls and balustrades in the park, and these were cleaned and restored during the renovation:

©Victoria Pickering

For a full view of the re-construction process, you can see photos on the Architect of the Capitol’s Flickr portfolio.

Taft Memorial Carillon

The Taft bell carillon is on the west side of the park, and is 100 feet high, with 27 bells. It is a memorial to Senator Taft (the President’s son), authorized by Congress in 1955 and funded by a public subscription. It’s currently undergoing cleaning and restoration.

©Victoria Pickering

The wildlife

With all the old trees, the park is a paradise for squirrels.

©Angela N.

Last year, there were cicadas on most of the trees in the park:

©Victoria Pickering

While we have never seen them ourselves, there are some hawks that live in the area and the Architect of the Capitol has photographed them at the park:

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

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