For the last several months, many people have seen the scaffold surrounding the U.S. Capitol Dome and have wondered what's happening. The scaffold is part of a multi-year project to restore the U.S. Capitol Dome to its original grandeur. The U.S. Capitol Dome, as we see it today, was not part of the original Capitol design and was added later. The original Dome was significantly smaller as was the Capitol Building itself. A history of the Capitol and Dome follows.
Construction on the U. S. Capitol Building began in 1793 and was based upon the design by Dr. William Thornton, First Architect of the Capitol (Exhibit. 1). The original design did not include the North and South Extensions, where the Senate and House of Representatives meet today, or the Dome as we know it. The Dome we know today was designed by Thomas U. Walter (Exhibit. 2) and constructed from 1855–1866. It is constructed entirely of cast iron, which was chosen because it is a fire proof material, a total of "8,909,200 pounds of ironwork bolted together in a masterpiece of American will and ingenuity" at a cost of $1,047,291. Thomas Crawford's Statue of Freedom (Exhibit. 3) was lifted into place atop the new dome in 1863, its final section being installed on December 2. In 1866, the Italian-born artist Constantino Brumidi finished the canopy fresco, seen atop the Capitol Rotunda, a monumental painting titled, The Apotheosis of Washington (Exhibit. 4). This completed the U.S. Capitol Dome with which we are all familiar.