In the News
Independent Journal Review: You Can Tour the US Capitol Dome for the First Time in 3 Years. Here's What That Looks Like.
Dec 01 2016
Independent Journal Review
The dome of the United States Capitol Building in Washington has been undergoing renovations for the past three years, bringing the tours to the top of the historic structure to a halt.
But on Monday, the tours opened up again after renovations had been completed and the scaffolding was removed.
The first official tour was granted to Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, a Republican who just secured re-election in November. Moran said he managed to get the first official tour because he had asked the Capitol architect's office far in advance.
“Once in awhile an elected official actually plans ahead,” Moran said.
The tour began at 8 a.m. in the Capitol Crypt, which despite its ominous name, is just the first floor of the legislative branch's place of work. Before venturing to one of the highest points in Washington, you must first sign a waiver in the event you are injured or die.
After that, Dave the tour guide takes everyone to the spiral staircase to begin the long journey to the top.
Upon reaching the top of the spiral staircase, you are only about halfway up the dome and can see almost every part of the interior.
While the Capitol dome was undergoing renovations, much of the walls, paintings, and columns were not visible to tourist or the many staffers and journalists who work inside every day.
The renovations were implemented to ensure that the structure would not collapse. Many of the bolts and metal fixtures had fallen off entirely or were left cracked since their last renovation in the mid-20th century.
However, Moran simply said that it was an effort to “make the dome great again.”
During the tour, Dave warned everyone to not lean over the railing because it is both dangerous and strictly forbidden.
Because parts of the route up the Capitol dome are technically outside, it gets incredibly windy and cold — that is when the waivers started to make sense. Dave warned everyone to watch their heads and we ventured up the stairs.
There is an inside part to the dome, which is entered through a small door with a walkway that wraps around the top.
The ceiling is covered in a painting titled “Apotheosis of George Washington” by Constantino Brumidi.
While in the top area of the inner dome, Moran walked away from the group to the other side to snap a picture of the group.
But the inner part of the dome is still not the best view. There's yet another staircase that leads to an area where women should definitely not wear high heels.
Note: graffiti is strictly forbidden inside the Capitol. However, there are many carvings into the railings and etchings in the glass of initials and names from U.S. history.
“Old graffiti is historic,” Dave said. “New graffiti is a federal crime.”
Once you get outside, there's a walkway corralling the top of the outer dome. The views are absolutely stunning.
After everyone posed for pictures and took in the views, it was time to head back down as the tour had concluded.
Upon returning to the bottom of the Capitol Building, there awaits another eager senator looking forward to the dome tour finally beginning again. This time it was Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy.
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