The scaffolding is coming.
Now that the Washington Monument has been freed from its cage, it's the Capitol's turn. The building's rotunda closed on Saturday for two weeks, kicking off the first renovation of the iconic dome since 1959. During this time, scaffolding will begin creeping up on the dome's exterior and protective netting will be draped around the rotunda's artwork, in preparation for a two-year, $60 million restoration project.
Restoring the 8.9 million-pound iron dome is a massive undertaking. "We have to have a full-on rehabilitation, full-on recasting, stitching, welding, sealing, and closure of the dome, not only for the operation of the dome itself but also for public safety," Eugene Poole, the project manager, said in a video released on the Architect of the Capitol's website last fall.
The dome's decorative acorns — 80-pound, basketball-size fixtures — pose a a potential danger to structures and people below. The structure also has some 1,300 cracks, which have allowed rain to leak into the rotunda in recent years.
Check out these photos of what the renovation will look like — and why it's badly needed — compiled by National Journal's Brian Resnick. And get your scaffold-free photography in now, while there's still time.