In order to allow for the installation of scaffolding and floor, statuary, and artwork protection in conjunction with the Dome Restoration Project, the Rotunda of the Capitol will be closed from Monday, July 27 through Monday, September 7. While the Rotunda is unavailable for tours, an alternate tour route will be provided. The Capitol Visitor Center is open during the closure of the Rotunda and will offer special activities which do not require advance reservations. You can also download our new U.S. Capitol Rotunda app.

The End of the Gaslight Era

A violent gas explosion rocked the old north wing on November 6, 1898. Although electric lights had been introduced in 1885, gas was still the principal method of illumination. The fire that followed the gas blast almost spread to the roof. Some feared that the flames could have melted the great iron dome. Shortly after the disaster, the Capitol removed all its gas lighting and launched extensive measures to fireproof the building.

The roofs of the old north and south wings had been fashioned of wood covered with copper. Steel and concrete structures replaced them in 1901. Similarly, fireproof steel and plaster replaced the wooden ceiling over Statuary Hall. Joseph Rakemann decorated that ceiling in 1902, a work that has since been restored.

History of Congress and the Capitol

The Capitol 1877-1913

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Washington Morning Times, November...
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Washington Morning Times, November 7, 1898

Washington Morning Times, November 7, 1898

Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress

Washington Morning Times, November 7, 1898

Washington Morning Times, November 7, 1898

Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress

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