The deterioration of the dome of America’s Capitol Building has taken a toll on this notable historic structure. With the oxidation of the cast iron girders and mortar in particular, the Capitol Building is in dire need of repair. Old paint needs to be removed, iron and stone repairs are needed and a fresh coat of paint needs to be expertly applied to one of this country’s most popular landmarks. This important work must take place over a course of time. The Capitol Dome in Washington D.C. is a marvel of engineering built during the American Civil War and was subject to the pressures of that era. Now it will be stabilized and improved using contemporary engineering methods.
Over the years, many structural pieces have already been removed from the Capitol as the building has degraded. But the pieces have been removed to protect passersby below. Now a thorough repair to the Capitol dome will begin, and with it will come a new look at historical perspectives of its design and construction for student travel groups.
While the improvements to the Capitol are underway, a vast system of white canopies will be installed to protect the public. The doughnut shaped configuration of the protective canopy will be lit from within at night while workers reconstruct the dome. Most work will take place in evenings and on weekends, leaving time and space for student tours of Washington D.C. In many ways this is the best possible time to be a visitor as tours will include much added information surrounding the reconstruction: the original engineers, proposed drafts, materials, symbolism, and challenges to building in the midst of the bloody Civil War.
Student groups visiting Washington D.C. will take the official U.S. Capitol Building Tour. This is one of the best tours in D.C., with extremely knowledgeable guides who will help history and social studies students become informed about the Capitol’s history and recent renovations. Capitol Building tours take student groups through the vast halls of national sculpture, paintings and tapestries. Tours begin in the orientation theaters for viewing the short educational film titled, “Out of Many, One.” All official tours start at 8:50 a.m. and at 3:20 p.m., every Monday through Saturday. Have a student travel company with experience in organizing educational trips to Washington D.C. schedule the Capitol tour well in advance, to ensure a visit.
Be sure to be part of the special tour “Capitol and the Congress During Civil War.” This special tour is in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and will include exclusive stops at the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Be sure to ask a student travel company representative for passes to this special tour. There are a limited number of passes given out each day, and the tour begins promptly at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Capitol offers another special tour that is offered Monday through Friday at 2 p.m.: the Brumidi Corridors Tour. Designed by Constantino Brumidi in the mid nineteenth century, these corridors are unique in their mastery of painting and tile work. This tour is approximately thirty minutes in length and takes groups through the Senate wing on the first floor of the Capitol. The tour guide will discuss the exquisite paintings on the walls and ceiling of the corridor. There is no other corridor like it, and this tour is strongly recommended.
Every Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. in Exhibition Hall there is a special thirty-minute program called, “Exhibition Hall Family Program.” This talk details how the Capitol was expanded over time and how it impacts the laws and what goes into making legislative decisions that change all of our lives.
Students may also visit the restaurant or gift shop in the Capitol Building on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. The restaurant serves a wide variety of soups, salads, special entrees, pizzas, and desserts – all recipe items designed to reflect the different regions of the United States. The gift shop specializes in merchandize inspired by the U.S. Capitol’s art and architecture.