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Rotunda Closing Changes Capitol Tour Route

Capitol tours will be modified to adjust to the Rotunda closing this summer. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With the Rotunda closing for six weeks this summer, Capitol tour guides will be offering a modified tour of the Capitol, that does not include National Statuary Hall.  

According to Capitol Visitor Center spokesperson Sharon Gang, the Small Senate Rotunda will be added to the Capitol tour route while the Rotunda is closed. The route will also include tour staples such as the orientation film, the Capitol Crypt and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Gang wrote in an email last week that, "The route is accessible to individuals with mobility issues." But the new route does not include Statuary Hall, a typical stop on a Capitol tour. A separate Statuary Hall tour will be available during the August recess.  

"The tour route was carefully considered, taking a variety of factors into consideration, most importantly safety, security, and accessibility," Gang wrote regarding the exclusion of Statuary Hall from the alternate route. "While the approved route meets those needs, we recognized there would still be interest in seeing National Statuary Hall. Therefore, we worked closely with our partners in the House to determine the appropriate parameters and route for the National Statuary Hall Tour we will be offering on an hourly basis throughout the August recess."  

Despite the Rotunda closing, tourists who want to view the Rotunda artwork will be able to do so through their smartphones. Gang wrote that the CVC is working on a mobile app to view the artwork, and it would also include descriptions of the Rotunda's historical significance. The app will be for Apple and Android devices, and Gang said it will be released before the Rotunda closes on July 25.  

The CVC made similar tour modifications when the Rotunda closed for more than two weeks in April 2014. But this time the tour will conclude in the visitor center's Exhibition Hall, instead of the CVC exit corridors, to allow visitors to engage with the various displays and exhibits about the Capitol.  

Throughout the six weeks, the CVC will also offer tours of the outdoor grounds and the Brumidi Corridors. In addition to the Statuary Hall tour, the hour-long tour titled "Extraordinary Ordinary People" will be offered during August recess. The tour occurs at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and explores four people enshrined in the Capitol who fought for civil rights.  

The Rotunda will be closed from July 25 until Labor Day on Sept. 7. During that time, workers will repair damage to the paint, stone and other areas of the Rotunda that resulted from water leaking through the more than 1,000 cracks in the Rotunda and Capitol Dome. Work includes removing lead paint, restoring ironwork, installing new lighting and repainting the Rotunda to "historically appropriate colors."  

Workers will also install scaffolding throughout the Rotunda that will remain in place until the late summer of 2016. But tourists will likely notice changes to the Rotunda before July 25, as workers will begin installing floor and art protections in mid-July.  

The Rotunda restoration, which is part of the final phase of the Capitol Dome restoration project, is expected to be completed before the presidential inauguration in January 2017. The final phase cost more than $21 million according to 2015 legislative branch appropriations.

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