The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building is one of the more ornately decorated buildings in Washington, D.C. When visitors walk into the Great Hall, they usually look up and around, taking in the painted murals, sculpted details, the colorful glass skylight, and the monumental scale of the space.
Today, we will instead talk about the floor beneath visitors’ feet in the Great Hall, which is also elaborately decorated, as seen below in this photo taken from the mezzanine:
The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building celebrated its 125th birthday in November of 2022. To support research interest in the building and to mark the occasion, we digitized nearly 1000 architectural drawings documenting its construction. One such drawing shows some of the details of the mosaic and marble floor in the Great Hall, as indicated on the right-hand side of the drawing:
The set of drawings we scanned has an original numbering system. Underneath the text indicating we are looking at marblework designs for the floor, you can see “768” on the drawing above, at right. And as you might expect with drawings created over 125 years ago, there are occasional gaps in the set. One such gap I noticed related to this floor, as we did not have drawings 802 through 807. In the squares that march around the outside edge of the floor are brass inlays of the twelve signs of the zodiac, alternating with inlaid flowers. But the drawing set we have only included drawings of four of the signs and nothing of the other brass inlays.
Happily, a recent find within our unprocessed collections filled in the rest of this particular story, with drawings 802 through 807. Drawings of the other eight zodiac signs, three flower designs used between them, and an oversized drawing in two parts of the sunlike compass rose at the very center, are now cataloged into the original set. These new additions have been scanned as well. Please enjoy a few of them below:
This detail photo shows Scorpio and two of the flowers:
- To hear more about the Jefferson Building and the nearly 1,000 drawings we scanned for its birthday, check out the online presentation Finding Pictures: The 125th Anniversary of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
- Explore the set of digitized drawings of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, which includes these new additions.
- To find your zodiac sign in the set, look at these six drawings, and to see the brass inlaid floor in person, plan a visit to the Library of Congress Jefferson Building!