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Buildings and Facilities: Visiting the Library of Congress
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The Three Library of Congress Buildings

The Library of Congress occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill. The buildings are remarkable but very different public spaces and public works of art. Each is named after a President of the United States who has a strong connection with the creation of Congress’s library.

Thomas Jefferson Building

When the Library of Congress was first established, it was housed in the U.S. Capitol. The first Library of Congress building, opened in 1897, is named for President Thomas Jefferson, who offered his personal collection of books as a replacement after the British burned the Capitol in 1814 and destroyed the Library's collections. Congress agreed in 1815 to purchase Jefferson's eclectic and comprehensive collection, thus greatly expanding the scope of the Library.

John Adams Building

President John Adams signed into law on April 24, 1800, an act moving the seat of government to Washington; it contained a provision appropriating $5,000 "for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress...and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them." The 1939 John Adams Building honors the second U.S. President.

The simple structure of the building was intended as a functional and efficient bookstack "encircled with work spaces." Today, the building's decorative style, which contains elements of "Art Deco" inspired by the Exposition des Arts Dècoratifs held in Paris in 1925, is widely admired.

James Madison Memorial Building

The Library's newest building is a memorial to President James Madison, whose influence on the establishment of the Library of Congress predates the U.S. Constitution. In 1783, as a member of the Continental Congress, Madison became the first sponsor of the idea of a library for Congress by proposing a list of books on the subjects of law, history, politics, and geography that he considered "indispensable" for legislators. This effort preceded by some 17 years the establishment of the Library of Congress. The James Madison Memorial Building was dedicated on April 24, 1980.

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[Image of the Thomas Jefferson Building ]
The Thomas Jefferson Building
of the Library of Congress

[Image of the John Adams Building}
The John Adams Building
of the Library of Congress

[Image of the James Madison Building]
The James Madison Memorial Building
of the Library of Congress

  The Library of Congress >> Visiting the Library
   June 6, 2002
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