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150-Year-Old US Capitol Dome Under Repairs


The United States Capitol Dome in Washington, DC, is recognized around the world as a symbol of the U.S. government. Since last November, the dome has been surrounded by metal poles, or scaffolding, and heavy cloth as part of a repair project.

The last major repair work on the U.S. Capitol took place in 1960. Since then, the dome has become weathered and worn. The Architect of the Capitol group reports the dome has more than 1,000 narrow breaks on its surface and other damage.

The dome was completed around 1863. U.S. Senate Historian Don Ritchie says the dome’s cast iron frame is at special risk of weathering.

“The capitol dome, being cast iron, has been hit by lightning countless times. And so the current construction is to repair the leaks, to fill the cracks, to take off excess layers of paint.”

Workers are removing old paint. They covered a large part of the building in plastic and a special cloth to protect workers from the wind and other elements.

Much of the work is done at night, when lawmakers are not in the building. Some recent visitors to the Capitol were unhappy about its current appearance. They had hoped to get a picture of the usually shining dome.

Joyce, a visitor from China, said the sight of the Capitol building left her disappointed.

“It was dramatic, and very fantastic, and all white, but when I come here today, it is under construction so my family cannot see it clearly, [it] is kind of a disappointment.”

Others were more understanding of the repairs. Rick Jones, another visitor, said he was not upset to see the repairs, because it will be better in the future.

“It's a little inconvenient for us not to see the dome but you have to think about the future and the people will be coming to this place for centuries…and you know, there just needs to be preventive maintenance. I am not upset with that at all."

The project is expected to take more than two years to complete. The dome should be ready for the inauguration of a new president in January 2017.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA’s Jeff Custer reported this story. Caty Weaver wrote it for Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dome n. a large rounded roof or ceiling that is shaped like half of a ball

weatheredadj. worn by long exposure to the air

construction n. the act or process of building something (such as a house or road)

maintenance n. the act of keeping property or equipment in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc.

occasionally adv. sometimes but not often

upset adj. angry or unhappy

Have you ever seen the U.S. Capitol Dome? What is your favorite building in the United States? Tell us about it in the comment section.

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