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.