Capitol Dome Tours Slated to Resume

Posted February 13, 2004 at 6:00pm

For the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, Members of Congress can once again show off to their constituents one of the best views in Washington.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter last week informing Members that tours of the Capitol Dome will resume today, more than two years after they were halted for security reasons.

“The Capitol Police Board recently recommended the resumption of limited Dome tours — with the understanding that this may change in the future if the security threat environment so warrants,” Hastert wrote.

Some lawmakers had been pushing for tours to resume long before the Speaker’s letter last week. Last year, the House Appropriations Committee issued report language accompanying the fiscal 2004 legislative branch spending bill expressing dismay that tours were still unavailable.

“[T]he Committee is concerned that the closure of the dome is contrary to its symbol as our nation’s freedom,” the report said.

During the suspension of tours, the Architect of the Capitol made a number of safety improvements, installing fire alarms and exit signs as well as new handrails and lighting.

As was the case before the suspension, lawmakers must be present for the tours, which will be led by members of the Capitol Guide Service. Tours will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Because the climb to the top of the Dome requires navigating 300 stairs with no bathrooms or resting areas along the way, the Architect recommends that small children and people with various health problems not take the tour. Anyone who does take one will have to sign a damage waiver.

Offices wishing to schedule tours should call the Capitol Guide Service at (202) 224-8406.

Unfortunately for Capitol lovebirds, the resumption of tours comes too late to use the Dome for a Valentine’s Day rendezvous.

On Feb. 14, 2001, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) used a Dome tour to propose to his then-girlfriend, though they had to stop midway through their 300-step trek to the top because she was afraid of heights. They were married three months later.