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Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol

Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol

View of a typical Presidential inaugural ceremony.

Presidential inaugural ceremonies are perhaps the most widely known of the numerous ceremonies held at the U.S. Capitol.

The Architect of the Capitol erects the inaugural platform on the Capitol's West Front, sets up the necessary seating and fencing on the grounds, and coordinates other activities with the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies regarding all of the physical arrangements that are necessary to accommodate this event.

 

The 20th amendment to the Constitution specifies that the term of each elected President of the United States begins at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. Each president must take the oath of office before assuming the duties of the position.

President Thomas Jefferson was the first to be inaugurated at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The ceremony took place in the Old Senate Chamber on March 4, 1801.

With the 2009 inauguration of Barack H. Obama, the oath has been taken 70 different times by the 44 Presidents of the United States.* This numerical discrepancy results chiefly from two factors: a president must take the oath at the beginning of each term of office, and, because Inauguration Day has sometimes fallen on a Sunday, four Presidents (Hayes [1877], Wilson [1917], Eisenhower [1957], and Reagan [1985]) have taken the oath privately before the public inaugural ceremonies. In addition, President Arthur took the oath privately following the death of President Garfield and again two days later in the Capitol. Grover Cleveland is considered the 22nd and 24th presidents, having served two nonconsecutive terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897).

The oaths administered to date have been taken place in the following locations:

  • U.S. Capitol (53 occasions)
    • East Portico -- 34
    • Hall of the House of Representatives -- 6
    • Senate Chamber -- 3
    • West Front -- 7
    • East Front of Original Senate Wing -- 1
    • President's Room -- 1
    • Rotunda -- 1
    • Vice President's Room -- 1
  • White House -- 6
  • Old Brick Capitol (1st & A Sts., N.E.; site of present Supreme Court Building) -- 1
  • Washington, D.C. (not in Capitol or White House) -- 2
  • Outside Washington, D.C. – 7

* A complete list of presidential inauguration dates with precedents and notable events is available.