The renovations to the U.S. Capitol dome and rotunda have been successfully completed as part of the two-and-a-half-year-long Capitol Dome Restoration Project. The ellipsoidal cast-iron edifice, which was completed in 1866, had undergone serious deterioration and suffered from water infiltration. Its last significant renovation occurred more than half a century ago, said Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), during a press conference on the East Front of the Capitol this morning. The AOC oversaw the restoration with architect-of-record Hoffman Architects, based in Arlington, Va. Ayers and the AOC awarded the project in November 2013 to a joint venture between Turner Construction and Smoot Construction, while Hoffman Architects has been working on the master plan since 1990.
Due to aging, deferred maintenance, and water infiltration, the 8.9-million-pound, 288-foot-tall cast-iron dome was plagued by nearly 1,300 deficiencies and cracks, totaling 12,800 inches long. Additionally, workers had to replace several windows and recast decorative ornaments, such as rosettes, acorns, and grape clusters, at Historical Arts and Casting, a foundry in West Jordan, Utah. To remove and reinstall them, the construction team built scaffolding around the dome, which began at the base of the Statue of Freedom and extended to the top of the dome skirt. To move the materials in a specific area, extra scaffolding systems were erected on the west side of the Capitol. The scaffolding was a prominent sight on Capitol Hill.
"This one project was the most visible of all," Ayers said. "The symbol of America's democracy and the beacon of hope for millions around the world, and we delivered."
The dome was finished in three coats of paint, totaling 1,215 gallons, with the top coat color named "dome white."
Inside the Dome Rotunda, signs of decay were evident, such as peeling paint. As part of the restoration, aging mechanical and lighting systems were updated. Iron work was also restored. The system to carry out these tasks was a circular, canopy-netting system that still allowed the the Apotheosis of Washington to be visible during the process.
The project was budgeted at $60 million and was targeting completion for next year's Presidential inauguration, on Jan. 17, 2017. Ayers said the project was completed under budget and on time. "It was so important for us to have this project done by the presidential inauguration. We call this Capitol and the West Front our nation's stage, and as our nation's stage, it needs to be beautiful, and that's the time that everyone across this great country and across the world will be watching."