More About That Mysterious Photo of the Capitol “Painted” Red

Yesterday Tom shared a somewhat jarring photo of the Capitol dome — colored red.  It wasn’t something we had seen before, dating roughly to the late 1950s.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t have much information.

Capitol Dome
Capitol dome – in red.

After a bit of digging, we now know that the Capitol’s re-painting (and temporary red coloring) happened in April 1960.  The photo spotted on Twitter came from a family’s Washington trip between April 22-25, 1960.  Here are more details from a colorless front-page Washington Post photo feature on April 5, 1960:

Over the Capitol Dome
A lone painter was suspended from the top of the Capitol dome yesterday in a bosun’s chair rig, giving what will be the final coat of paint in the dome’s refurbishing.  Its color will be off-white, to conform with the rest of the Capitol.  Right now, though, the dome shows four colors of the refurbishing process — an anti-rust dark tone, a red preservative, a beige primer, and the final, off-white coat.

Washington Post - April 5, 1960.
Washington Post – April 5, 1960.

Want to see another photo of a D.C. institution unexpectedly painted red?

About Aaron M.

Originally from Philadelphia, Aaron Myers has lived and worked in D.C. for most of the last 15 years. He's a graduate of George Washington University and a resident of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronemyers.

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