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Cox Corridors

Cox Corridors


Designed by renowned artist Allyn Cox (1896-1982), three corridors on the first floor of the U.S. Capitol's House wing are elaborately decorated with wall and ceiling murals that include historical scenes, portraits and maps related to the development and growth of the United States.


The Cox Corridors in the south wing of the U.S. Capitol were designed by renowned artist Allyn Cox.

The murals of the Cox Corridors are set within an architectural framework of pilasters and trompe l'oeil classical carvings, and quotations from historical figures are painted above many of the doorways. The murals and decorations complement those in the Brumidi Corridors in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol.

The project was authorized by Congress in 1971. Allyn Cox was asked to submit a proposal because of his previous work in the Capitol, which included the completion of the Rotunda frieze in 1953 and the portrait of Henry Clay in the Senate Reception Room in 1959; later, he also painted the mural depicting the moon landing in the north Brumidi Corridor in 1975. He had begun planning murals for the first House corridor in 1969 and later developed a master plan for the other two corridors.

Similar materials and methods were used in the decoration of all three corridors. After thorough surface preparation, canvas was applied to the walls and ceilings. The artists then transferred the designs from full-size cartoons to the canvas by means of pouncing (applying powdered charcoal through perforations in the cartoons). The murals were then executed in oil paint.

Initial approval for the Cox plan was given by the Joint Committee on the Library, the Committee on House Administration, and the Architect of the Capitol. Funds for the project were contributed by the United States Capitol Historical Society, with additional support for the second corridor provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Great Experiment Hall (Central East-West Corridor)

The central east-west corridor is referred to as the Great Experiment Hall because it chronicles in 16 murals the legislative milestones of three centuries, from the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1629 to the enactment of women's suffrage in 1920. Thirty-two vignettes complementing the historical scenes are painted at the sides of the murals. In the ceiling 16 medallion portraits are painted in chronological order, and quotations appear above the 16 doorways. The corridor was dedicated in 1982, not long before artist Allyn Cox's death. Cliff Young, Cox's assistant, then began to refine details of Cox's sketches for the third corridor, but he died in 1986 before beginning to paint.

The Mayflower Compact, 1620 The Albany Congress, 1754
The First Continental Congress, 1774 The Declaration of Independence, 1776
The Constitutional Convention, 1787 The First Federal Congress, 1789
Washington's Inauguration, 1789 Washington's Farewell Address, 1796
The Monroe Doctrine, 1823 Lincoln's Second Inaugural, 1865
The Smithsonian Institution, 1855 The Library of Congress in the Capitol,
Iron Foundry, circa 1850 Steam Powered Amphibious Boat, 1804
Theodore Roosevelt, circa 1904 Women's Suffrage Parade, 1917

The Hall of Capitols (Eastern North-South Corridor)

Cox first executed the murals in the eastern north-south corridor, starting work in 1973 and finishing in 1974. This corridor has been termed the Hall of Capitols because it features paintings of 16 different buildings that housed the Continental and United States Congresses from 1754 to 1865. Portraits of the nine men who served as Architect of the Capitol between 1793 and 1974 decorate the groined vaults of the ceilings. Painted in the barrel vaults of the ceilings are eight historic events that occurred during the first 65 years of the Capitol's existence. Sculptures that had previously been removed from the Capitol, or that are difficult to view because of their locations, are painted in trompe l'oeil in wall lunettes, using shades of gray to simulate sculpture.

Albany, 1754 New York, 1765 Philadelphia, 1774
Philadelphia, 1775 Baltimore, 1776 York, 1777
Annapolis, 1783 Princeton, 1783 Trenton, 1784
New York, 1785 Philadelphia, 1790 Washington, 1800
Washington, 1814 Washington, 1815 Washington, 1829
Washington, 1867
Historical Scenes
Capitol Site Selection, 1791 Capitol Cornerstone Ceremony, 1793 British Burn the Capitol, 1814
First Capitol Inauguration, 1829 Old House Chamber, 1838  Rotunda During Civil War, 1862
New Dome Symbolizes Union, 1863 Civil Rights Bill Passes, 1866  
Benjamin Henry Latrobe Charles Bulfinch Thomas U. Walter
Edward Clark Elliott Woods  David Lynn
J. George Stewart George M. White Thomas Crawford
Frederick Law Olmsted  John Trumbull Pierre Charles L'Enfant

The Westward Expansion Corridor (Western North-South Corridor)

In 1993-1994 the third series of murals, based on Cox's approved designs, was executed in the western north-south corridor by EverGreene Painting Studios, Inc. Called the Westward Expansion corridor, it includes maps and scenes showing the growth of the United States from early exploration through the acquisition of Alaska and Hawaii. As in the corridors that Cox executed, the scenes on the vaults are set above illusionistic architectural motifs and relief sculpture. Each map in the vaults is shown in the cartographic style appropriate to its historical period. Jeffrey Greene, the head of EverGreene Painting Studios, verified the geographical and historical accuracy of Cox's preliminary sketches, developed new scenes compatible with Cox's concept, and then submitted detailed sketches and small-scale oil paintings of each vault to the Architect of the Capitol for the necessary approval. 

"Terra Incognita" The First Four Settlements in America The First Thirteen Colonies
From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River Central North America From Texas to the Pacific Ocean
Alaskan Purchase, 1867 Sandwich Islands  
Stalking Deer Timucuan Village Explorers' Portage
Fort St. Augustine Boston Tea Party Yorktown, 1781 
Northern Wilderness Boone at Cumberland Gap Lewis and Clark
Louisiana Purchase, 1803 Gold Prospectors Spanish Mission
Drying Cod Hunting Game Clearing Land
Weaving Canal and Locks Sod House
Land Grant College Sharecroppers Pony Express
Golden Spike Covered Wagons Indian Ceremony
Fur Trade Island Dance