What Is a Cornerstone of a Building?

A cornerstone of a building is an important part of construction as it is the first stone to be set and determines the position of all the pieces to be laid afterwards. Cornerstones have been part of building since the Great Pyramids.

Traditionally, the laying of the cornerstone has been an occasion for a ceremony. One of the earliest cornerstone ceremonies in the United States is when George Washington presided over the laying of the first stone for the United States Capital Building.

Washington laid the cornerstone of the permanent home for congress in September of 1793. The building would take a century to complete and the story behind its construction is interesting in its own right.

Two events related to the war marred the progress of the completion of the Capital Building; the war for independence against the British and the events of the Civil War. During the American Revolution, the British set the capital on fire and the renovations were halted and later the building was used as Union troops barracks.

The Masons of America had created a ceremony for laying a cornerstone at the time of the Capital Building´s ceremony. Corn, wine and oil were placed on the cornerstone after it was set as symbolic gestures.