The U.S. Capitol building - the seat of the American Congress in Washington, D.C. -?
Capitol being propped up.
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Background: The U.S. Capitol building - the seat of the American Congress in Washington, D.C. - is crumbling and in danger of collapse. Workmen of Tuesday (24 August) were busy propping up the West wall with timbers.
The Capitol was built 160 years ago of sandstone held together with mortar made from oyster shell. The mortar has deteriorated. The building's imposing dome is made of cast iron, and this expands and contracts as the sun heats it, pushing the sandstone walls in and out. The pressure, the deteriorated mortar, and the crumbling sandstone have taken their tool: three years ago the east wall ad to be extensively rebuilt. Now the west wall - the side of the building facing the White House and the Washington Monument - is in danger of collapse.
Officials say it is so bad that a severe sonic boom from a supersonic aircraft could bring the whole structure down, including the dome. The timbers are propping up the crumbling wall until the Congress can appropriate the necessary funds for repair.
Ironically, the building's architect had originally intended the structure to be made of marble, which would have produced a permanent building. But George Washington, the United States' first president, said the infant republic could not afford marble. He urged the building be constructed of less expensive sandstone; had the sandstone required mined from his won quarry across the Potomac River in Virginia; and sold it to the new government.