Art: Defeat on the East Front

Designed by William Thornton in 1793, approved by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, constructed by Architects Benjamin Latrobe and Charles Bulfinch, the east front of the U.S. Capitol—where Presidents are inaugurated—has long been an embattled front. For more than half a century, proposals to remodel it have been beaten back by defenders of its architecture and its importance as a national shrine. Last week the defenders lost a battle that may mean they have lost the war.

The Last Stand? The current phase of the struggle began in 1955, when the House passed a...

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