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.