The 150-year-old Capitol dome – made of cast iron – was last worked on in 1960 and it shows: There are more than 1,000 cracks and it’s beginning to rust.
J. Scott Applewhite • Associated Press,
At the U.S. Capitol, $60 million in renovations about to begin
- Article by: ASHLEY SOUTHALL
- New York Times
- October 22, 2013 - 8:54 PM
Weather and plain old age have left the Capitol dome with more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies like stains and rust, the architect of the Capitol said in a statement Tuesday.
Scaffolding will go up next month as crews begin a $60 million effort over several years to restore the Capitol to its “original, inspiring splendor,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol.
“As stewards of the Capitol for the Congress and the American people, we must conduct this critical work to save the dome,” Ayers said. “From a distance the dome looks magnificent, thanks to the hard work of our employees. On closer look, under the paint, age and weather have taken its toll, and the AOC needs to make repairs to preserve the dome.”
The cast iron dome was built during the Civil War and last had a face-lift in 1959 and 1960. The “consistent bombardment of the natural elements” has allowed water to seep through the laminate coating of the dome, causing rust and stains that threaten the artwork inside, project manager Eugene Poole said in a video that was released with the statement. Officials said they had identified almost 1,300 deficiencies and had collected hundreds of pieces of debris that had fallen from the dome and that they hoped to reattach.
The rotunda will remain open, but tours of the dome will be canceled until the renovations are complete. Most of the work will be done on nights and weekends to prevent disruptions.
Workers will repair the cracks using a “lock-and-stitch” technique that involves filling the cracks with metal pins and installing locks to pull the sides of the cracks together and add strength.
The public can expect parts of the Capitol to look like a construction zone over the next two years. The dome will be surrounded by scaffolding from the base of the Statue of Freedom to the top of the dome skirt. Scaffold towers and bridging will also be erected on the west side of the Capitol to help move materials to the work areas. A doughnut-shaped canopy and a covered walkway will be installed inside the Capitol rotunda to protect the public while still allowing visitors to see the “Apotheosis of Washington,” the famous painting of George Washington in the eye of the rotunda.
The work on the Capitol means that, for a while at least, two Washington landmarks will be surrounded by scaffolding. The Washington Monument is currently wrapped in a lighted scaffold skeleton while damage caused by a 2011 earthquake is being repaired.
© 2013 Star Tribune