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Capitol dome to get first face-lift in more than 50 years

WASHINGTON — Weather and plain old age have left the Capitol dome with more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies like stains and rust, the architect of the Capitol said in a statement Tuesday.

Scaffolding will go up next month as crews begin a $60 million effort over several years to restore the Capitol to its “original, inspiring splendor,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol.

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“As stewards of the Capitol for the Congress and the American people, we must conduct this critical work to save the dome,” Ayers said. “From a distance the dome looks magnificent, thanks to the hard work of our employees. On closer look, under the paint, age and weather have taken its toll, and the AOC needs to make repairs to preserve the dome.”

The cast-iron dome was built during the Civil War and last had a face lift in 1959 and 1960. The “consistent bombardment of the natural elements” has allowed water to seep through the laminate coating of the dome, causing rust and stains that threaten the artwork inside, Eugene Poole, the project manager, said in a video that was released with the statement. Officials said they had identified almost 1,300 deficiencies and had collected hundreds of pieces of debris that had fallen from the dome and that they hoped to reattach.

The rotunda will remain open, but tours of the dome will be canceled until the renovations are complete. Most of the work will be done on nights and weekends to prevent disruptions.

Workers will repair the cracks using a “lock-and-stitch” technique that involves filling the cracks with metal pins and installing locks to pull the sides of the cracks together and add strength.

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