The George Washington volleyball team was afforded a rare opportunity on Monday when it was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the United States Capitol building and grounds.
Team manager Eric Estroff, a freshman intern in the office of Florida Congressmen Vern Buchanon, guided the tour.
The team gathered at the Charles E. Smith Center around 8:00 a.m., unsure of what awaited them. After head coach Amanda Ault arrived, she informed the group of the morning's plans and the team departed on foot through a light rain to the Foggy Bottom metro station.
After taking metro to the Capitol South stop on the Orange Line, the Colonials were greeted by Estroff in the lobby of the Rayburn Office Building. From there, the team made its way into the office of Congressmen Vern Buchanan where Estroff previewed the morning's events.
The group then walked an underground tunnel from the Rayburn Office Building to the Capitol Visitor Center (built in 2008) as Estroff explained his role as an intern in Buchanan's office.
The United States Capitol Visitors Center
was constructed from 2000-2008.
The original plaster model cast of the Statue of Freedom, the 19.5-foot, 15,000-pound statue that stands atop the Capitol dome.
At the visitor's center, the team viewed a short video on the history of the United States Capitol building before embarking on the first stop of the tour, the crypt.
The entrance to the crypt contains the original cornerstone that George Washington laid down, in the north wing of the building, in 1793.
The United States Capitol Crypt. Tombs were constructed intended to house the remains of George and Martha Washington, but a provision in Washington's last will resulted in Mount Vernon as his final resting place.
Today, the crypt acts as the main entrance to the ground floor of the capitol. At the center, directly underneath the Capitol rotunda, is the geographical center of Washington, D.C., where the four quadrants of the city intersect.
The team then made its way into the old Supreme Court chambers before entering the breathtaking Capitol rotunda.
Coat racks for Supreme Court Justices John Catron (served 28 years), John McLean (31), Samuel Nelson (27) and John Archibald Campbell (8). Two Chief Justices, John Marshall and Roger Taney, presided over the Court in this chamber.
The old Supreme Court Chamber. Monumental and landmark cases such as McCulloch vs. Maryland, Gibbons vs. Ogden, Dred Scott vs. Sanford and United States vs. The Amistad were
The Capitol rotunda features the "Frieze of American History", 19 scenes from American History carved into wood, along the circumference of the dome. The ceiling features the famous painting "Apotheosis of Washington", which depicts George Washington sitting among the heavens in an exalted manner.
Just off of the Rotunda is the entrance to the old House of Representatives chamber. The room now serves as the National Statuary Hall, where statues of prominent citizens represent each of the 50 states.
The next stop on the tour was the old Senate chamber, which was in service until 1859. The room also served as a chamber for the Supreme Court from 1860 until 1935.
After exiting the old Senate chamber the team made its way to the office of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. A staffer who noticed the GW jackets the team was wearing allowed exclusive access to the Speaker's balcony at the center of the capitol building facing the National Mall and Washington monument. It was from just below this location that President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America in January.
The team continued its impressive run-in with fans when they encountered GW volleyball and softball alumnae Jackie Yaniga who is now a member of the United States Capitol Police. Yaniga brought the Colonials to the exclusive chambers, office and balcony of the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid
Yaniga then provided exclusive access to the floor of the House of Representatives. It is from this room that the President of the United States gives his annual State of the Union address, in addition daily sessions when Congress is in session.
Unfortunately, an efficient security checkpoint denied the opportunity to use cameras or other forms of documentation while on the floor.
Estroff provided a rundown of the process of a bill becoming a law and pointed out the voting machines located on the floor.
He also showed the team a bullet hole in a desk on the Republican side of the chamber, a result of the 1954 attack on the 83rd Congress.
Next up was a visit to the offices of the President of the Senate (also known as President Pro-Tempore), Patrick Leahy.
At the conclusion of the tour the team was afforded an opportunity rarely given to civilians, a ride on the United States Capitol subway system, which runs between the Rayburn office building, Russell Senate office building and the Capitol building. The subway allows quick access for Representatives to get from their office buildings to the House floor when a bill needs to be voted on.
The team returned to Buchanan's offices and left a note for the Congressman, thanking him for allowing access to his office and for allowing Eric to take some time off to lead the tour.
Not bad for a Monday morning. It was truly an "Only at GW Moment", as the classroom extends beyond the Foggy Bottom campus and into the walls of American history.