As many of you know, I love birds. I made the mistake of announcing at a meeting some time ago that I occasionally listen to CDs of bird calls and songs as I drive to and from work. Most of the members of my team have made fun of me since then, while a few other bird enthusiasts have secretly come forward.

I live near the Chesapeake Bay, which is a magnificent place if you are a birder. About a million swans, geese and ducks spend their winters on the Bay, while several others use it as a place to refuel as they migrate in the spring and fall.

One of the grandest birds on the Bay, and also one of my favorites, is the great blue heron. I love their beautiful steel blue color with hints of white, yellow and gray. Their ability to stand quietly and motionless is amazing. It also allows them to remain stealthy hunters and one of the Bay's top predators.

At up to four feet tall, they are big birds, and when they fly it's hard to believe they can get airborne. They are both beautiful and majestic creatures.


The central fountain in the perimeter wall surrounding Capitol Square.

Our grand U.S. Capitol Building is both beautiful and majestic as well. To me it's only fitting that Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of the U.S. Capitol Grounds, had a heron carved in stone at the focal point, the central fountain, in the perimeter wall surrounding Capitol Square. As one approaches the fountain, it's easy to sense that this is both a great place and a place of greats.

I can imagine weary travelers approaching the U.S. Capitol from the west, eager for a refreshing drink of water from the fountain. Then as they look up, seeing the stately heron carved in stone before looking up a bit further to see our splendid U.S. Capitol Building.

To me, Olmsted's selection of what image to carve was purposeful, and when images reinforce one another a sense of order and purpose are present. This sense of order and balance are comforting to me.

I hope you're able to take in some of the finer details around our beautiful campus this spring as the flowers and fountains burst to life.

Stephen T. Ayers is the 11th Architect of the Capitol.


Great comments. Transition from birds on the Bay to stone versions on the Capitol grounds an intriguing point. The latter advances a larger "sense of order and purpose" by including images of nature as part of this great building.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Recent News

Noteworthy Updates

History & Discoveries

John Adams' Carriage Ride to Washington D.C., in 1800

President John Adams issued a letter to all federal agencies on May 15, 1800, directing the "removal of the public offices, clerks and papers" from the capital city of Philadelphia. In that single sentence, Adams started the final move of the U.S. government to its permanent home, the newly created city of Washington, in the District of Columbia.

Olmsted Lanterns Restoration

The large bronze and glass lanterns are mounted on stately sandstone piers with intricately carved sandstone caps.