Today I got to take a dome tour, something that has been on my DC bucket list since I started on Capitol Hill. Dome tours generally require the accompaniment of a member of Congress, unless they are scheduled through a member's office well in advance at the request of the Chief of Staff. For whatever reason a tour time became available through another South Carolina member's office, and two fellow staffers and I jumped at the opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour.
The Capitol dome is pictured below. At it's highest height, the top of the Statue of Freedom, the dome stands 285 feet off the ground. The ceiling of the Capitol rotunda marks the highest inside point, and the canopy is painted with the Apotheosis of Washington. But above the indoor canopy, there is an outdoor "deck" that is accessible by stairs. When on that deck, one is at the second highest point in Washington. Only the top of the Washington Monument is higher, but there is a plexiglass barrier to the outside there. The top of the dome is completely open air, with visibility up to 35 miles on a clear day.
dome picture courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol
Our initial stop along the 380+ stair climp took us just above the Frieze of American History.
circular window wall above the frieze
and up at the Apotheosis
At one point in time, all of the covers where each pink area is opened up. Now they are sealed for the most part, with the exception of one that remains open to show how construction materials were transported in and out.
We stopped at the level just below the canopy and Apotheosis and were amazed at the size of the painting up close. It looks tiny from the ground.
George Washington and thirteen ladies, each representing the thirteen original colonies
Greek goddess Minerva measures about 15 feet high
the artist Brumidi's signature and date
We finally made it to the highest point that visitors are allowed to access, the open-air deck area with an incredible 360 degree view of the city. It was a little hazy this morning, but the view of the city was still one of the best I've seen. Such a neat experience!
the Longworth building, where my office is
the National Mall and Washington Monument
looking out down Pennyslvania Avenue over Northwest DC
the Rayburn building in the forefront and the convergence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers is in the background- the Nats baseball stadium is in the back far left
another shot of the Mall and Maryland Ave- the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is sits on Maryland Ave on the right before the Mall
Northwest and Northeast quadrants of the city, with Union Station in the middle right of the picture
Supreme Court on the left and Library of Congress on the right, with East Capitol Street splitting the Northeast (on the left) and Southeast (on the right)- the RFK stadium is at the far end of East Capitol