By Alex DeMetrick

WASHINGTON (WJZ) — One of the nation’s most famous buildings is going under wraps.

Alex DeMetrick reports repairs are needed on the U.S. Capitol dome, and they start Saturday.

As buildings go, the U.S. Capitol carries its share of history, symbolism and sense of place. Roughly 150 years old, it almost looks brand new–at least from the distance most people see it from.

“It’s amazing to see it. We’ve seen it so often on the news in Britain, but we’ve never seen it in the flesh. So it’s really nice to see it,” Bea Roberts said.

But it looks different close up. The huge cast iron dome has more than 1,300 cracks and rust is eating away pieces of it.

“This piece is about 40 pounds, so it was removed to avoid any incident,” said Carlos Elias, superintendent, Capitol building.

A web video by the architect of the Capitol outlines the damage weather and age are taking. Many of the dome’s windows are cracked, and when it rains, water is finding its way inside the rotunda.

“As these conditions continue to degrade, the risk is always there that a piece could fall and that it potentially hurt one of our workers on the roof,” said Kevin Hildebrand, head of architecture.

Starting Saturday, the rotunda will close to the public for two weeks while a construction safety net is hung. Then scaffolding will wrap around the dome to make repairs.

“It’s all going to be covered up,” one visitor said.

This comes just as the last of the scaffolding is coming down from earthquake repairs on the Washington Monument.

“We’re lucky to see both at the moment. We got the window where both of them are visible,” said Robert Roberts.

The repairs are going to take at least two years to complete. Putting them off will only mean more damage and more work later.

While repairs are underway, the Capitol’s visitor center will remain open to the public.

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