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Architect of the Capitol Begins Restoration of Capitol Dome Skirt

Architect of the Capitol Begins Restoration of Capitol Dome Skirt

Friday, February 24, 2012

Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, LEED AP, announced today that passers-by at the U.S. Capitol will soon see workers beginning the restoration of the Capitol Dome skirt – the lower level of the cast iron Dome.

The restoration work will include repairing and restoring historic ironwork, sandstone, and brick masonry. In addition, old paint will be removed from the interior and exterior of the Dome skirt and it will be repainted.

Work behind the scenes has been ongoing for several months to prepare the site for the restoration project. Currently, a large scaffold tower is in place on the West Front Grounds. A second scaffold tower will soon be erected at the terrace level, and will connect with the lower tower with a bridge that will be used to move materials to the skirt level. The scaffolding installed around the Dome's skirt will be covered with a white scrim to allow it to blend in with the building’s exterior. The majority of the work will be done at night and on weekends to ensure minimal disruption to Congressional business, events, and public tours.

The Architect of the Capitol has performed regular maintenance to slow the deterioration, and in summer 2010, sealed and painted the Dome to provide a protective coating to help preserve and protect the exterior cast-iron surfaces. To accommodate preparations for the 2013 Inaugural, work on the Dome skirt is scheduled for completion in fall 2012.

"There is only one Capitol Dome, and we are committed to preserving it for generations to come," noted Ayers.

The iconic Capitol Dome serves as a symbol of our country and our government. It was designed by Architect of the Capitol Thomas U. Walter, and is the Capitol's second dome. The first, finished in 1824, was a low dome made of wood and covered by copper. By the 1850s, this dome was considered a fire hazard and too small for the Capitol Building, which had been enlarged over the years.

Construction on the new dome began in 1856, and progressed through the Civil War. Made of cast iron, the new dome was added to the existing Rotunda walls. Its iron columns were cast hollow, allowing some to serve as chimneys or rain downspouts. Work was completed on December 2, 1863, when the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place atop the new dome.