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.
The north wing of the Capitol was left after the fire in a much more ruinous state than the south wing. The whole of the interior of the west side having been constructed of timber, and the old shingle roof still remaining over the greatest part of the wing, an intensity of heat was produced which burnt the walls most exposed to it, and, being driven by the wind into the Senate chamber, burnt the marble columns to lime, cracked everything that was of free-stone, and, finding vent through the windows and up the private stairs, damaged the exterior of the wing very materially. Great efforts were made to destroy the court room, which was built with uncommon solidity, by collecting into it, and setting fire to, the furniture of the adjacent rooms. By this means the columns were cracked exceedingly; but it still stood, and the vault was uninjured. It was, however, very slenderly supported and its condition dangerous. Of the Senate chamber no parts were injured but such as were of marble or free-stone. The vault was entire, and required no repair whatever. The great staircase was much defaced, but might have been reinstated without being taken down.
" In this state the north wing was found when the work on the Capitol was commenced in 1815. The plan of the wing was determined in 1807, and laid before Congress. The original document having escaped destruction, the work was begun in conformity thereto, and some progress made in the construction of the offices of the judiciary and of the library, when a very important and extensive improvement of the apartments of Senate was suggested by the honorable body, and ordered by the President to be carried into execution.
" In pursuance of this order, it was necessary to take down the vaults which had been constructed on the west side of the house-and to raise them to the level of the principal floor. This alteration was the only one which affected the work carried up in the year 1815. It was affected in the months of May and June. The ruinous state of the building further required that the dome of the central vestibule, the colonnade, and all the vaulting of the court room, and the dome of the great stairs, with all the walls as far as they were injured, should be taken down. The enlargement of the Senate chamber required that the great dome of that apartment and its semi-circular wall be entirely removed, and that the arches and walls of the two committee rooms, and the lobby adjoining the chamber, should also be demolished. All this was promptly accomplished, and the new apartments carried up with all the speed which was consistent with solidity ; so that all the committee rooms on the floor of the Senate are completely constructed and vaulted, and the wall of the Senate chamber itself has advanced to the height of ten feet from the floor.
" The new vault of the court room, much more extensive than the former, is also completed. All the new work is so constructed as in no part whatever to bear on the old walls, but to serve as a support to them ; and the whole is so bound and connected together as to render the building much more strong and durable than it was before the conflagration".
About this time Jefferson writes to the Secretary of State : "If If it be proposed to place an inscription on the Capitol, the lapidary style requires that essential facts only should be stated, and these with a brevity admitting no superfluous word. The essential facts in the two inscriptions are these:
44 Founded 1791.—Burnt by a British Army 1814.—Restored by Congress 1817.
" . . . But a question of more importance is whether there should be one at all ? The barbarism of the conflagration will immortalize that of the nation. It will place them forever in degraded comparison with the execrated Bonaparte, who, in possession of almost every capitol in Europe, injured no one".
In its construction and rebuilding the Capitol was never without the direct supervision of the Presidents. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams, each in turn, presided over its destiny and often descended to the consideration of the most minute details with a grace rather startling to the ideas of dignity commensurate with the office in the minds of some later Presidents. During the work of restoration, in the spring of 1817, President Monroe guarded its rebuilding with a fatherlj concern almost equal to that displayed by Washington in its building. He gave directions as to the Potomac marble to be used^irft-he columns for the chambers of the House of Representatives and Striate and as to the quarrying of the same, not forgetting instructions for the workmen. He ordered that the dome of the Senate wing be built of brick and the corresponding one above the House of Representatives, of wood, adding specific directions as to where and how materials for each should be obtained. He urged, beyond everything, the necessity of so far completing the building as to have it in readiness for the meeting of Congress the following fall. The President considered even the "tools, lumber, nails, spikes and provisions" for the Capitol, and ordered " sheds to be erected for the workmen, for cooking and as store houses without delay." At the same time, he gave directions for the distribution of provisions to the employes, the keeping of accounts and receipts, and for a report to be made to the Executive each Monday regarding the progress on the work.
In November, 1817, the two wings being practically restored, latrobe sent in his resignation and retired from the work, except to carry out in good faith the offer he had made in his letter of resignation, to give such drawings, instructions and information to the public as would enable his successor to complete the plans which he had begun and which, he seemed to think, could not well be altered. His motives for retiring, by his own account, were "partly personal," and though there was an undoubted difference between him and the Commissioner, and many complaints that he attended to his private affairs to the detriment of the work at the Capitol, there can be little doubt of his sincere attachment to the welfare of the building. Nor would his ability as an architect have been seriously questioned, had not an arch given way in 1808, causing the death of Mr. Lenthall, and later, one above the corridor before the Supreme Court Chamber. In commenting upon the latter in a report made January 18, 1819, after his resignation, Latrobe says :