Capitol to undergo $60M restoration

The dome of the U.S. Capitol building will be covered in scaffolding for the next two years as it undergoes a $60 million, multi-year restoration.

Work will begin in November on the first major restoration of the iconic structure since 1959.

The project will bring major change to Washington’s skyline, as scaffolding will be extended from the base of the dome to the base of the Statue of Freedom.

There are also plans to light up the scaffolding at night, similar to what’s been done at the Washington Monument, which is being repaired from earthquake damage.

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“For the next two years, the Capitol Dome may not look great aesthetically — but please know that when the scaffold is removed, the dome will be even more splendid than before, and we can all be proud of the work that was performed to ensure that it will stand for generations to come,” wrote Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers in a blog post.

The dome has more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies, according to the Architect of the Capitol's (AoC) office, which is overseeing the project.

White paint has chipped from the cast iron dome, which has become the victim of rust. Water has been seeping through cracks, and pieces have broken off. If the problems aren’t fixed, the AoC says, the famous paintings in the rotunda will be subject to water damage, and there could be a danger of falling debris.

The problems are mainly due to the weather. Exposure to rain, snow, sleet and sun has damaged the exterior of the dome, which was originally cast during the Civil War.

Visitors and staffers at the Capitol should not be affected by the repair work, as most of it will be done at night and on the weekends.

Inside the Capitol building, the rotunda, which hosts multiple tour groups on a daily basis, will remain open to staff and visitors. The famous George Washington painting "The Apotheosis of Washington," in the eye of the rotunda, will be visible throughout the restoration process.

Tours of the dome itself, however, will be canceled until work is complete.

A white canopy system in the shape of a doughnut will be installed in the rotunda to protect visitors. There will also be a covered walkway to shield people as they go from one side of the Capitol to the other.

The AoC estimates the cost of the project will be $59.55 million, with a completion date of November 2015.

—This story was last updated at 4:10 p.m.