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The Court Building

The Supreme Court was not provided with a building of its own until 1935, the 146th year of its existence. Initially, the Court met in the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City. When the National Capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the Court moved with it, establishing Chambers first in the State House (Independence Hall) and later in the City Hall. When the Federal Government moved, in 1800, to the permanent Capital, Washington, the District of Columbia, the Court again moved with it. Since no provision had been made for a Supreme Court Building, Congress lent the Court space in the new Capitol Building. The Court was to change its meeting place a half dozen times within the Capitol. Additionally, the Court convened for a short period in a private house after the British set fire to the Capitol during the War of 1812. Following this episode, the Court returned to the Capitol and met from 1819 to 1860 in a chamber now restored as the "Old Supreme Court Chamber." Then from 1860 until 1935, the Court sat in what is now known as the "Old Senate Chamber."

Finally, in 1929, Chief Justice William Howard Taft, who had been President of the United States from 1909 to 1913, persuaded Congress to end this arrangement and authorize the construction of a permanent home for the Court. Architect Cass Gilbert was charged by Chief Justice Taft to design "a building of dignity and importance suitable for its use as the permanent home of the Supreme Court of the United States."

Neither Taft nor Gilbert survived to see the Supreme Court Building completed. Construction proceeded under the direction of Chief Justice Hughes and architects Cass Gilbert, Jr., and John R. Rockart. The construction, begun in 1932, was completed in 1935, when the Court was finally able to occupy its own building.

The classical Corinthian architectural style was selected because it best harmonized with nearby congressional buildings. The building was designed on a scale in keeping with the importance and dignity of the Court and the Judiciary as a coequal, independent branch of the United States Government, and as a symbol of "the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity."

The general dimensions of the foundation are 385 feet from east to west, (front to back) and 304 feet from north to south. At its greatest height, the building is four stories tall and rises above the terrace or ground floor. Marble was chosen as the principal material to be used and $3 million worth was gathered from foreign and domestic quarries. Vermont marble was used for the exterior, while the four inner courtyards are of crystalline flaked, white Georgia marble. Above the basement level, the walls and floors of all corridors and entrance halls are either wholly or partially of creamy Alabama marble. The wood in offices throughout the building, such as doors, trim, paneled walls, and some floors, is American quartered white oak.

The Court Building cost less than the $9,740,000 Congress authorized for its construction. Not only was the final and complete cost of the building within the appropriation, but all furnishings were also procured, even though planners had initially expected that the project would require additional appropriations. Upon completion of the project, $94,000 was returned to the Treasury.
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Question 1
When did the National Capital move to Philadelphia?
A. in 1935B. in 1790
C. in 1890D. in 1769
Question 2
When was the Supreme Court first provided with a building of its own?
A. 1976B. 1790
C. 1932D. 1935
Question 3
Which of the following happened in 1812?
A. the National Capital moved to PhiladelphiaB. the Supreme Court established Chamber in the State House
C. the Federal Government moved to the permanent Capital, Washington, the District of ColumbiaD. the British set fire to the Capitol
Question 4
Where is the Old Supreme Court Chamber located?
A. Washington, the District of ColumbiaB. Philadelphia
C. New York CityD. Norfolk
Question 5
Who persuaded Congress to authorize the construction of a permanent home for the Supreme Court?
A. Chief Justice Howard GilbertB. Architect Cass Gilbert
C. Chief Justice William Howard TaftD. Chief Justice John R. Rockart
Question 6
When was the construction of the Supreme Court Building completed?
A. in 1901B. in 1933
C. in 1835D. in 1935
Question 7
Who designed the Supreme Court Building?
A. Architect Cass GilbertB. Chief Justice William Howard Taft
C. Chief Justice HughesD. Architect George Gilbert
Question 8
How many stories tall is the Supreme Court Building?
A. tenB. four
C. sixD. eight
Question 9
The inner courtyards of the Supreme Court Building are of _______________.
A. white Vermont marbleB. creamy Alabama marble
C. white Georgia marbleD. white Maine marble
Question 10
Where is the Independence Hall located?
A. AtlantaB. Philadelphia
C. Washington, D.CD. Chicago
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