At that time, researching family history, I discovered reference to a letter from a great aunt of mine to the then president of the United States. Curious, I inquired at the National Archives and was directed to the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., District of Columbia. So there I went.
Stunned as I walked through the doorway into the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson building, built in 1897, I thought, this is incredible! The massiveness of the interior overwhelmed me. A marble staircase beckoned to be tread-ed. Silence surrounded me. My heart stood still. My eyes wandered everywhere attempting to absorb the imposing, surrounding beauty. Look there! Eight foot high Ionic columns of marble supporting archways beneath the rotunda which hold 10 foot high allegorical female figures carved into plaster. Colorful art work with a lot of gilt resides in the underpinnings of the rotunda and everywhere. The interior design is based on the Paris Opera House.
I learned materials used in the of the interior construction consisted of marble, granite, iron, bronze. The original floors of the Reading Room are a checkerboard pattern of of light and dark brown cork with marble boarders and walls of Indiana limestone.
People where walking about or sitting at long desks with green shaded lamps set in a semi-circular pattern studying books and papers. The atmosphere was surrealistic.
A gentleman approached, a staff member, and inquired as to how he could help me. I explained and he said, “Sit here,” motioning to a set of comfortable leather chairs. I did and he disappeared into the bowels of the surrounding stacks which I learned were holding miles of books and paperwork. (Today, 2016, the Jefferson holds 90 million items and 540 miles of shelves.) Tired of sitting and people-watching, I began to wander, taking in all the wonderment around. I overheard a young woman asking a clerk for information on the history of ballet. To this day I wonder why she wanted that information.
Eventually the gentleman returned to me and stated the information requested could be found in the Presidential Papers Collection Archives in Salisbury, MD. That search proved to be unsuccessful. However, that visit to Library of Congress is a page in my life I shall remember forever.
Helen Zimmerli has written for local newspapers and magazines through the years. She was a political campaign publicist for a contender for the N.Y. State Senate, worked for CBS network News, Manhattan, N.Y. She was the public relations person for the bicentennial in Belmont, CA. and currently writes a blog for the Camp Verde Bugle. Helen writes poetry for relaxation.