→Recent History and Key Events
On December 2, 2008, the United States Capitol Visitor Center opened to the public, the same date the dome finished in 1863, with the building dedicated to tell the history of the site and act as a starting point for tours of the Capitol. The center was built underground on the east side of the Capitol in order to keep the main view of the Capitol Building and Grounds clear of obstruction, with the building itself being about 580,000 square feet. Over the last decade in 2012-2016, extensive restoration has taken place on the building. Roughly $61 million had been appropriated for external renovation, while over $20 million had already been spent on work around the dome. From 2014-2016, extensive scaffolding covered the dome. The work was also pushed quickly so that the 2017 inauguration of President would not have the scaffolding as part of the view. The work was finished just prior to the 2016 election in September of that year.
In addition to inaugurations that have taken place in Washington D.C. since 1801, the Capitol has been part of key historical events. Every year, the building serves as a key site for Independence Day celebrations and fireworks as well as National Memorial Day concerts. In Martin Luther King's famous March on Washington in August 1963, the Capitol was not used as the site of the events and speech since the goal of the march was not to make members of Congress feel under attack or siege but rather that they were part of the process of creating a more equal society. Outside of senators, presidents, and other key or major government officials who have been lain in state at the Capitol, officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson were also given that honor in 1998 after a shooting incident at the Capitol building, with Chestnut being the first African American to be given that honor. Rosa Parks become the second African American to be given that honor. In 2018, Billy Graham became the fourth private citizen without having held a government role to have the honor of lying in state. Pope Francis, in 2015, became the first Pope to given a joint address to Congress. On January 6th, 2021 the capitol was breached for the second time in its history, with four rioters and one police officer killed in the resulting melee.