The Summerhouse, a hexagon-shaped brick structure set into the sloping hillside of the West Front lawn on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Building, has offered rest and shelter to travelers for over a century. Construction on the Summerhouse began in 1879 and was completed in late 1880 or early 1881 by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Frederick Law Olmsted was appointed by Congress in 1874 to develop and improve the Capitol Grounds, which had been enlarged in response to the addition of the north and south wings of the U.S. Capitol. He included the Summerhouse in response to complaints that visitors to the Capitol Building could not find water or a place to rest on their journey. In addition, he designed it as a setting for decorative vegetation. The Summerhouse is constructed in the form of an open hexagon. The red brick used for its walls is laid in geometric and artistic patterns, forming volutes and other shapes, and taking on a "basket-weave" texture on the exterior walls on either side of each doorway. Some of the bricks have been carved or shaped to contribute to the design's overall effect. Arched doorways, each fitted with wrought-iron gates and flanked by small windows, occupy three of the building's six walls.Inside, stone benches with armrests alternate with the doorways and provide seating for 22 people; the benches are shaded and sheltered by projecting roofs of red Spanish mission tile. Above each bench is a large oval window flanked by decorative niches, each niche with a different design of intertwined scrollwork. Two of the three windows are filled by thick stone panels with octagonal perforations; the third, ornamented with a wrought-iron grille, affords a view into a small grotto, where a stream of water falls and splashes over the rocks. Each doorway offers a different view as well, one facing a tall hedge, one looking up at the Capitol, and one looking across the Capitol's west lawn toward the Mall.
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