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The Italian Factor Touches explores the U.S Capitol

The City of Washington, with an estimated population of seven hundred thousand, is the capital of the United States. It was not a natural choice, but a deliberate creation.

The building where Congress meets is called the Capitol. President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the city on September 18, 1793, and the first U.S. Congress met there seven years later. The architectural design was inspired by the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. Thomas Jefferson, who was Secretary of State at the time, had a great admiration for Italian culture, art, and architecture. He invited Italian artists to help design and decorate the U.S. Capitol. The shared video is part of my conversations with Bill Sherman, Director of UVA’s Program on Venice and the Veneto, about some of this connections.

The U.S. Capitol has a rich and sometimes troubled history. It was burned by the British in 1812, rebuilt, expanded, restored, and recently attacked by a violent mob encouraged by former President Donald J. Trump.

The Italian Factor Touches explores the U.S Capitol

Through it all, the U.S. Capitol stands as a symbol of American ideals and innovation, Jefferson's love for Italian culture, and the contributions of enslaved workers like Phillip Reid, who helped cast the Statue of Freedom, the first bronze statue in America.

Many free and enslaved people worked with Italian artisans, craftsmen, painters, and sculptors to recreate the ancient splendor of Rome with a vision of freedom and prosperity in the New World.

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