Repairs begin on Washington’s iconic U.S. Capitol dome

BY Associated Press  December 25, 2013 at 11:43 AM EST

U.S. Capitol; Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty ImagesWASHINGTON — A world famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome.

Curved rows of scaffolds will encircle the dome like Saturn’s rings starting this spring. They will allow contractors to strip paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken cast iron pieces.

The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding.

Repairs to water damage inside will require a partial covering of the huge frescoed ceiling in the Capitol’s Rotunda.

Cracks in the 150-year-old dome have allowed water to penetrate for years. The last major renovation was in 1960.

The project is starting just as the nearby Washington Monument sheds scaffolding that was used to repair damage from a 2011 earthquake.

The current dome is actually the second to sit atop the Capitol. The first was deemed too small for the building and was replaced in 1862. The current dome celebrated its 150th birthday in early December.

By Associated Press and PBS NewsHour