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The Unusual Red Painting of the US Capitol Dome in 1960

Discover the surprising story of the US Capitol dome painted red in 1960. Learn why and how it happened and see the historical photos. From Ghosts of DC.
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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:

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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?

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