The recent assault was the latest in a long series of destructive and sometimes deadly incidents that date back to the early 1800s.

DEAR DAVE: I was sickened by the Jan. 6 mob assault on the U.S. Capitol building. Has it ever been attacked before?

ANSWER: Believe it or not, there have been more than a dozen assaults on the Capitol or its occupants since construction began in 1793. Some involved just one or two people, one was launched by British armed forces, while others were started by angry mobs like the one that temporarily seized it earlier this month.

British troops burned down much of the Capitol, the White House (then called the “Presidential Mansion”) and several surrounding government buildings as the War of 1812 dragged on. Fortunately, Mother Nature saved the day: A massive rainstorm struck the area several hours after it was set ablaze, extinguishing the fires and sending the British forces packing much earlier than planned.

Another major assault occurred on March 1, 1954, when four people who wanted the U.S. to grant Puerto Rico its independence smuggled several handguns into the lightly-guarded Capitol and opened fire while Congress was meeting on the House floor. Five Congressmen were shot before the intruders were apprehended by visitors and police and later sent to prison.

And on Nov. 7, 1983, a pro-communist group of women denotated a bomb in the Capitol’s north wing around 11 p.m. No one was hurt because most of the elected officials and their staffs had already gone home, but the extensive damage that the explosion caused is believed to be the most destructive attack on the building by an organized terrorist group.

It’s also worth noting that when terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers of a fourth jet that officials believe was headed for the Capitol were overcome by its brave passengers and crew. It instead crashed into an open field in Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people aboard.

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REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: The Capitol, which stands on four acres at the east end of the National Mall, has about 600 rooms and 658 windows. Elected officials and their staffers can move about the massive complex with the help of an underground, three-line electric subway system.

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DEAR DAVE: I don’t understand why you often tell buyers that they should always make their offers contingent on obtaining a satisfactory report from a professional home inspector. Nearly every state requires sellers to disclose defects that they know about, and buyers can sue if the seller isn’t forthcoming. So, don’t you think that paying hundreds of dollars for an inspection is just a waste of money?

ANSWER: No, paying for a professional home inspection is never a waste of money. Every buyer should order one, even if they’re purchasing a newly constructed house directly from a builder.

True, most states require sellers to disclose any problems that they know about. But even then, those sellers generally cannot be held liable for failing to disclose defects that they didn’t know existed. To illustrate, say you purchased a house without ordering an inspection and it slid off the foundation when the first rainstorm arrived. The only way you could collect damages from the seller would be to prove that he knew about the problem — or at least should have known — and failed to tell you about it. At best, you would have to spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and countless hours in court pursuing a claim with an uncertain outcome.

Had you instead hired a professional inspector, it’s likely that the inspector would have noticed telltale signs, such as fissures or buckling in the cement, that the foundation was giving way. You could have then negotiated with the seller to have the necessary repairs made, reduce the selling price, or simply use the contract’s inspection contingency to cancel the sale and get your deposit back.

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DEAR DAVE: I was watching the TV game show “Jeopardy!” a few weeks ago and one of the contestants said that she lived in Colma, California, which she described as the “necropolis of San Francisco.” What’s that all about?

ANSWER: A necropolis is a large cemetery, usually featuring hundreds or even thousands of elaborate tomb monuments. The term stems from an ancient Greek word that literally translates into “City of the Dead.”

Colma, about 11 miles southwest of San Francisco, fits that description to a T. A bit less than two square miles in size, it has 17 different cemeteries — most of which were established after 1900, when officials in San Francisco banned new internments within city limits.

With more than 1.5 million bodies buried there, there are about 1,000 folks resting underground for each person in Colma (pop. 1,800) walking above.

Most of the good (living) folks in Colma, a lovely town that I have visited twice, take their city’s reputation in stride. The city’s own website (www.colma.ca.gov) boasts of the town’s nickname, the “City of Souls.” Tongue-in-cheek, many T-shirts and car bumper stickers proudly state that “It’s Great to be Alive in Colma!”

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Our booklet, “Straight Talk about Living Trusts,” explains how creating an inexpensive trust can let your heirs quickly inherit your home and other assets after you die instead of suffering through the long and costly Probate process. For a copy, send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to D. Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405. Net proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross. Send questions to that same address, and we’ll try to respond in a future column.

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