In May of
1873 Olmsted was asked by the Senate Committee in Buildings and Grounds to assume the job
of planning the grounds for the US Capitol.
Olmsted felt that the 46 acre plot was to small for a full blown park, and he knew that he
would have to subordinate the park to the beauty of the Capitol.
Olmsted was determined that the grounds should complement the building. To accomplish
this as well as deal with the terrain of the area, Olmsted designed marble terraces on the
north, west, and south sides of the building, thereby causing it to "gain greatly in
the supreme qualities of stability, endurance, and repose."
Work on the grounds began in 1874, concentrating first on the east side and then
progressing to the west, north, and south sides in 1875. The first phase of the project
was to even out the elevation of the parcel. This was attained by removing almost 300,000
cubic yards of earth and other material as well as transplanting over 200 trees.
In order to make the grounds accessible to pedestrian traffic, foot-walks were laid.
They were constructed of artificial stone and the approaches were paved with concrete. To
add the aura of formality, an ornamental iron trellis were installed on the northern east
and on the southern walk.
In 1885, Olmsted retired from superintendency of the terrace project; he continued to
direct the work on the grounds until 1889.