It wasn't quite 4 a.m. when I arrived at the U.S. Capitol and it was a chilly 48 degrees. While I was still adjusting to the darkness and cold, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) stone masons were getting to work: cleaning the walls of the Capitol, plastering, laying stone and cutting countertops. These are just a few of the daily tasks the masons perform and that I got to watch as they set about getting the building ready for another day before the rest of the employees on Capitol Hill even woke.
To avoid disturbing our customers on Capitol Hill the masons schedule this work before the typical workday starts. They have a small window, from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., to complete any tasks that may interfere with visitors or the work of staff – such as cleaning the walls of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) or repairing plaster in a committee room. The rest of their shift, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., they work quietly behind the scenes.
The work is also incredibly physically demanding. They let me "have a go" at cleaning the walls inside the CVC using a pressure washer... my arm was dead after only cleaning three feet of the wall (the CVC is nearly 580,000 square feet)!
Outside, the masons used a lift to move a stone from the East Front Plaza that weighed more than 800 pounds! At 8 a.m., after four hours watching the AOC masons at work, I was completely exhausted – and their day was only halfway done.
Now as I walk the halls of the Capitol, I see the effects of their hard work all around me, from the pristine walls to the stone walkways. And I'm reminded that by the time I arrive at my office in the morning the AOC has already been busy maintaining the historic spaces in which we work.