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U.S. Capitol Dome Undergoing Repaint

Friday, July 2, 2010

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U.S. Capitol dome

Work has begun on a five-month project to repaint the exterior of the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C.

The Office of the Capitol Architect said the work began June 21 with the erection of scaffolding, hanging platforms, and swings. Workers will be suspended from the dome by safety lines as they paint the cast-iron exterior. Painters will apply more than 500 gallons of paint, tinted to match the dome’s historic color.

The protective coating is designed to help preserve and weatherproof the 154-year-old structure, with completion of the project scheduled for November.

“The U.S. Capitol Dome is iconic and is the most recognized symbol of our government,” said Stephen T. Ayers, AIA, Architect of the Capitol. “In 1793, President Washington had insisted during the original construction of the Capitol Building that it demonstrate the permanence of our federal government.

“We take great pride in our mission to preserve the Capitol Building, to ensure that it continues to stand for generations to come,” Ayers said in a statement on the dome-painting project.

The new coating will replace existing paint layers that have oxidized and eroded, dulling the dome surface. The work will preserve and protect the dome while preparations are made for a more comprehensive restoration project, the Office of the Capitol Architect said.

The phased restoration project will include removing the paint from the dome’s exterior; repairing defects in the ironwork; and resealing and repainting the ironwork with an epoxy and urethane paint system.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Capitol Architect said the office declines to disclose specific information about such projects, including details on the products used and their manufacturers and the painting contractors involved. That policy is followed at the direction of Congress, to avoid the appearance of endorsement of products, she said.

During the current project, visitors to the Capitol will see a scaffold tower, which painters will use to access the dome.

The dome's exterior was most recently repainted in 2002. The last significant exterior renovation was carried out in 1959, when the dome was stripped of paint in order to prime the ironwork with a rust inhibitor.

The Capitol Dome is comprised of nearly nine million pounds of fireproof cast iron and was designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter to replace an original dome of copper and wood. The dome was built from 1855 to 1866; the final section of the Statue of Freedom atop the dome was installed on Dec. 2, 1863.


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