For the beauty of our immediate surroundings here on Capitol Hill, we must thank Frederick Law Olmsted (how can you go wrong with middle name like “Law”?), the prominent American landscape architect. Olmsted designed no fewer than 550 parks and public spaces throughout the United States, including the grounds of the Capitol Building.
In the appropriations passed on March 21, 1874, Congress allocated $3,000 for a topographical survey of the Capitol grounds and also hired Olmsted to complete a design for the grounds. (18 Stat. 23) Olmsted incorporated over 100 varieties of trees (mostly deciduous) and bushes, whose blooms hearken the spring. Congress approved the continuing work on the Capitol grounds by appropriating $20,000 in April of 1876. (19 Stat. 35) The design and implementation of the expanded grounds – including the marble terraces surrounding the Capitol, the grand staircase, a brick “summerhouse” for respite from the sun, pedestrian and vehicular paths, and all of the landscaping – took 18 years to complete.
The image above is rather representative of the kind of weather we have been having lately. While the tree is burgeoning with flowers, a snowplow with an attached salt spreader waits below for a radical change in the weather.