Cracked by age, damaged by rain, Capitol's dome is set for 2-year, $60 million renovation

WASHINGTON (AP) — A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome.

Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces.

The Capitol's crowning piece is actually two domes, one nested under the other like Russian dolls, and separated by a web of cast iron braces hidden from view.

Water has seeped through the cracks over time, and the Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers says that has caused the iron to rust.

It's the dome's first major renovation in more than 50 years and should add decades of structural integrity to it.

The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths.

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APPHOTO WX407: FILE - This Dec. 19, 2013 file photo shows the shadow of the Capitol Dome cast onto the Senate side of Capitol Hill in Washington. A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome. Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces. The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths. But the Washington icon -- and portions of the Rotunda's painted ceiling that lies below -- will be significantly obscured for many months. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (19 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO WX404: FILE - This Dec. 19, 2013 file photo shows cracked and peeling paint visible during a media tour of the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome. Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces. The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths. But the Washington icon -- and portions of the Rotunda's painted ceiling that lies below -- will be significantly obscured for many months. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (19 Dec 2013)

<<APPHOTO WX404 (12/19/13)££

APPHOTO W403: FILE - This Dec. 19, 2013 file photo shows the structure of the Capitol dome during a media tour on Capitol Hill in Washington. A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome. Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces. The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths. But the Washington icon -- and portions of the Rotunda's painted ceiling that lies below -- will be significantly obscured for many months. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (19 Dec 2013)

<<APPHOTO W403 (12/19/13)££

APPHOTO WX406: This Dec. 19, 2013 file photo shows Capitol Hill police officer Adam Taylor escorting media on a tour of the restoration process from an area of support structure near the top of the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome. Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces. The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths. But the Washington icon -- and portions of the Rotunda's painted ceiling that lies below -- will be significantly obscured for many months. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (19 Dec 2013)

<<APPHOTO WX406 (12/19/13)££