Founded in 1880, the original Library of Congress collection included 740 books and three maps. This collection lived in the Capitol until 1814, when invading British troops burned the Capitol and destroyed the library inside it. Former President Thomas Jefferson subsequently sold his personal collection of 6,487 books to the government, which became the foundation of the present-day Library of Congress. The Library's main building is named for Jefferson in recognition of the importance of his collection.
Although originally designated for the needs of Congress only, the Library of Congress' audience grew to include all government agencies, serious scholars, other libraries and the general public, and the collections have grown accordingly. The Library's holdings had expanded to such a degree by 1881 that it was apparent that a dedicated building was needed. The imposing, Beaux-Arts style Jefferson Building was constructed between 1886 and 1897. With its continuously expanding collections and activities now spread across multiple buildings,* the Library of Congress is the world's largest library, with more than 167 million items in around 470 languages.
*Although not historically-designated, the Library of Congress also encompasses the Art Deco style John Adams Building (1938) and the modernist James Madison Memorial Building (1980).
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Historic Landmark: December 21, 1965
Exempt from National Register listing (per Section 107 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966)