Phase 1 of the Cannon Renewal was recently completed and as members, staff and the public enter the Cannon House Office Building's historic rotunda, they will encounter something new — but it is actually something old.
The rotunda has been returned to its original appearance when the building opened in 1908. This beautiful space now reflects the original intent of Superintendent of the Capitol Building and Grounds Elliott Woods and the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings.
"The colors chosen by Woods and his architectural consultants were meant to highlight and enhance the classical details of the Rotunda’s dome, cornices, columns and capitals without relying on applied decoration," says Architect of the Capitol (AOC) Historic Preservation Officer Mary Oehrlein. The rotunda features 18 Corinthian columns, an entablature, a coffered dome and double height windows that frame a picturesque view of the U.S. Capitol and grounds.
During the Cannon Renewal, the rotunda's original plaster dome was repaired and painted the historic color, which carries the color of the stone columns up through the cornice and dome to the skylight. The intent is to make the Rotunda look as if it was all made of stone — similar to ancient Greek and Roman structures. The skylight, which was replaced during the project, now allows natural light to filter through the space, highlighting the rotunda's impressive architectural details.
The Cannon Renewal work will continue through the other wings of the building, but the Rotunda may be the most visible and striking change of the entire project. The AOC's preservation mission is on full display in this hallowed location, which will now honor the designer’s original intent for the space that serves as the Cannon Building's front door.