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Crane Arrives on East Front Friday Night, Rotunda Closes Saturday

Tourists took final glimpses at the interior of the Rotunda before the 17-day closure. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Friday offered the final chance for Capitol Hill employees and visitors to glimpse Constantino Brumidi's "Apotheosis of Washington" fresco before the Rotunda's 17-day closure as part of ongoing Dome restorations .  

The artwork lining the walls of the iconic space has been caged in scaffolding in preparation for the work being done from Saturday, April 12 through Monday, April 28, 2014 as part of the Architect of the Capitol’s Dome Restoration Project . Protective wood flooring is also in place.  

By 10 p.m., a crane is expected to park on the East Front of the Capitol Plaza for an overnight delivery to support installation of materials needed to install safety netting in the Rotunda. It should depart around 6 a.m. on Saturday.  

In the meantime, the area will be "taped off and clearly marked," according to Justin Kieffer, the Architect of the Capitol's spokesman for the project.  

Beginning this weekend, the elegant Brumidi painting spanning 4,664 square feet in the eye of the Rotunda will disappear from view. During the 17-day closure, the Capitol tour route will be changed. Both Capitol Visitor Center tour guides and staffers have been instructed to avoid the construction and take tourists on an alternate route, developed by the CVC.  

When the Rotunda reopens, President George Washington's ascent to the heavens will again be visible through a doughnut-shaped fabric canopy, in place for the duration of the interior Dome restoration work. The fabric will protect the fresco that is suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor.  

Those traversing the Rotunda during the first and final stages of the project will have to pass through a covered, 96-foot walkway, assembled to protect passersby from canopy construction.  

The last time the Capitol community braced for significant exterior renovation of the Dome was 1959. Since then, the elements have taken their toll, resulting in more than 1,300 cracks.