Capitol Dome to Get a 2-Year Makeover

The dome is in a state of grave disrepair, and the Architect of the Capitol will spend more than $40 million to fix it up.

By: Benjamin Freed

The US Capitol dome will undergo a two-year restoration to patch up more than 1,000 cracks in the cast-iron hemisphere, the Architect of the Capitol announced today. While the dome is undergoing repairs, it will be covered in scaffolding from the tip of the statue of Freedom to where it joins the building’s main body.

The repairs are sorely needed, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers says in a press release.

“From a distance the dome looks magnificent, thanks to the hard-work of our employees,” he says. “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 dome hasn’t undergone a complete restoration since 1959-60. Close-up photographs released by the Architect of the Capitol show the dome in considerable disrepair, with rust fraying away the corners, deep cracks running along freizes, and whole chunks of metal crumbling off. 

Two construction companies, Turner and Smoot, were awarded the $40.8 million contract in September. There is no start date on the project, but it should, for a couple of years, provide some relief to fans of the scaffolding currently sheathing the Washington Monument, which is due to come off next year. The design for the Capitol scaffolding, though, does not look nearly as impressive as the Michael Graves-designed illuminated shroud that covers the Washington Monument now.

Inside the Capitol Rotunda, crews will install a doughnut-shaped canopy along the dome’s underbelly to protect people walking through, and to preserve upward views of the Apothesis of Washington that decorates the ceiling. A similar canopy was installed in 1999 when the dome’s interior was stripped of lead paint.

Does Congress's workplace really deserve to look this pretty when it's covered in scaffolding? Image via Architect of the Capitol.