This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
Beyond this, and on the east side of the main corridor running to the north or Senate wing, is the door to the Supreme Court chamber, which, except for a short period, was occupied by the Senate from 1800 until 1814, and again, after the restoration, until January 4, 1859, when the Senators moved into their present hall. It was first occupied by the Supreme Court in December, i860.
This semi-circular chamber is 75 feet in length, 45 feet in width and the same in height. The small gallery to the east, which was the only one preserved after the removal of the Senate, is supported by columns of dark, variegated Potomac marble, whose Ionic capitals, modeled after those in the Temple of Minerva, are chiseled from Italian blocks. It was Latrobe's design " moreover," says Watterston, " to support one of the galleries of the Senate chamber with emblematic figures of the old Thirteen States, decorated with their peculiar insignia, and the models were actually prepared by one of the Italian artists whom he had engaged to come to this country; but a neglect or refusal on the part of Congress to make the necessary appropriations defeated his designs, and the plaster models were afterwards thrown aside and destroyed".
Beneath the gallery are four mantles. The two in the center, which are of white marble, are carved in bas-relief. They are designed to illustrate the idea that in union there is strength. On the one mantle, Hercules tries in vain to break a bundle of fasces bound in bonds of harmony \ on the other, laughing children snap in twain the single rods unbound. In cold weather, logs burn brightly in the fire-places to the north and south. Behind the dark red draperies, during each session, the justices, one at a time, are served with a light repast. They sit upon the bench before the Ionic pillars. Lord Chief Justice Coleridge of England, who visited this country in 1883, is the only person remembered to have been honored with the courtesy of a seat with the Court. Mr. Justice Miller, the senior associate justice, vacated his chair in favor of the learned visitor.
The ceremony of opening the Court is impressive from its very simplicity. As the justices enter, the crier announces : " The Honorable the Chief Justice and the associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States." The attending lawyers and spectators respectfully stand until the Court is seated, when the crier continues : " Oyez, oyez, oyez ! All persons having business before the Honorable the Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to draw near and give their attention; for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court." An adjournment of this august tribunal is announced in these words : " This Honorable Court is now adjourned until to-morrow at twelve o'clock".
The space within the semi-circular railing is reserved for members of the bar of the Supreme Court; the table in the center for the attorney who is addressing the Court. Any lawyer, after three years of practice in the highest court of his State, may be admitted upon motion. Visitors sit upon the cushioned benches between the railing and the wall.