WASHINGTON (AP) - The 150-year-old U.S. Capitol dome will be sheathed in scaffolding for about two years during its first major restoration since 1960, officials said Tuesday.
Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, said the structure may look good from a distance, but up close, more than 1,000 cracks and other structural problems need attention now.
"Under the paint, age and weather have taken its toll," Ayers said in a statement.
The restoration is expected to cost about $59.6 million, according to Justin Kieffer, Ayers' spokesman.
Kieffer said the dome damage is not the result of a 2011 earthquake that damaged other structures in the Capitol, including the Washington Monument.
Many buildings and monuments in the District of Columbia date back to the mid-1800s and are periodically covered in scaffolding during repairs.
The Washington Monument, built in 1848, is covered with scaffolding as workers repair the earthquake damage. A few blocks away, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where many White House staff work, recently shed scaffolding after years of repairs. That building was completed in 1888.
Repairs on the Capitol dome are not expected to affect legislative business and are being designed to minimally affect tours and other events.
When possible, the architect's office said, repairs will be done at night and on weekends. Inside the Capitol Rotunda, a doughnut-shaped canopy will be built to protect visitors from construction debris and will ensure the "Apotheosis of Washington," a fresco painting in the center of the Capitol, can still be seen.
The Architect of the Capitol's office plans to post regular updates on the construction on its website.