Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

If you've visited Capitol Hill before, you might have noticed the tiny, elf-size doors placed sporadically throughout the building.

Independent Journal Review's Rebecca Rainey noticed the doors while reporting on the Hill and looped her followers in:

As most are, her followers were curious about the doors' purpose. Some demanded answers while others chimed in with their own theories:

Are they for the Keebler Elf?

Or are they for another small mythical creature?

WATCH: The Story Behind DC's HOTTEST New Pop-Up Bar

So IJR decided to do a deep investigation into the mysterious elf doors on Capitol Hill — and we were amazed at what we found:

The elf doors do exist and you can find them all around the Capitol building.

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

They even come in different colors.

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

Here's an elf door with some tight security out front.

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

Here's a tiny door next to your average-size Hill reporter:

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

As we dug deeper, we found out that, unfortunately, these doors aren't for Santa's elves to deliver presents to the good Congress boys and girls. Instead, they were installed after a fire ravaged the Capitol building on Christmas Eve in 1851.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, in 1851 the Capitol building was home to the Library of Congress, which was filled with many historical collections, such as Thomas Jefferson's personal collection.

On Christmas Eve 1851, Capitol security guard John Jones noticed a light flickering through the library window. Because Jones didn't have a key to the library, he had to break down the door, where he discovered a small fire.

There was no accessible water in that part of the Capitol, so he had to run downstairs to grab some. But when he returned, the fire had engulfed the two-story library, destroying more than two-thirds of Jefferson's collection and more than 35,000 volumes.

Seven fire stations responded to the Capitol, and firefighters worked through the night and into Christmas Day to extinguish the inferno.

Jones testified during the fire investigation that had there been easily accessible water, the fire could have been easily extinguished. His testimony drove Congress to support funding for a reliable water supply throughout the Capitol building and in Washington, D.C.

That's when the Army Corps of Engineers, led by Capt. Montgomery C. Meigs, built these tiny doors to conceal water faucets.

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

The faucets weren't just handy for preventing fires. Workers also used the faucets to fill mop pails to clean up the mud and dirt dragged in from the city streets.

Katie Leach/Independent Journal Review

Although the tiny doors no longer serve their original purpose, the Meigs water system still carries water throughout Washington. Now the tiny doors serve as a quirky history lesson for Capitol visitors — and IJR readers alike.

Be the first to comment!
sort by: latest