Why the Capitol Needs a 2-Year, $60 Million Restoration

Oct. 22, 2013, 12:43 p.m.

The first land­mark many see upon en­ter­ing Wash­ing­ton through Uni­on Sta­tion is the gleam­ing white mono­lith of the Cap­it­ol dome. A moun­tain loom­ing over height-re­stric­ted build­ings, it’s one of the rare land­marks that looks big­ger in per­son than in pho­tos. But like a clas­sic work of art that ap­pears pristine and flaw­less from afar, a closer look shows its age.

Un­der in­spec­tion, the dome’s or­na­ments are fis­sured with rust. Paint is com­ing off chip by chip. Be­cause the dome is cast iron, it’s really, really heavy. The dome’s dec­or­at­ive acorns, for in­stance, are 80-pound, bas­ket­ball-size fix­tures, a po­ten­tial danger to struc­tures and people be­low. There are 1,300 known cracks in the dome, which have caused leaks in­to the ro­tunda in re­cent years.

On Tues­day, the Ar­chi­tect of the Cap­it­ol an­nounced a $60 mil­lion res­tor­a­tion pro­ject to re­pair and re­store the massive, 8.9 mil­lion-pound iron dome. It will take two years and, dur­ing that time, the dome will be covered in scaf­fold­ing, much like the Wash­ing­ton Monu­ment is now.

Stock pho­to­graph­ers take note: The Cap­it­ol will be rife with visu­al meta­phor of de­cay and re­pair.


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