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Construction Report: January – March 2013

January 1, 2013

UPDATED (28 February 2013) – Look for the word (UPDATED) to see what’s changed.

I’ve been AWOL from the blog for a couple months; taking vacations, snapping photos, processing photos, etc.  But enough excuses, I’m back now and it’s time for another installment of the Construction Update.   While demand for the Update has slowed since the completion of the Reflecting Pool renovation, it is still one of my most popular articles with 2,731 total pageviews (9% of pageviews) across five iterations.

I finally cleared the Reflecting Pool off of the list. It’s back to looking amazing and I haven’t heard anything about the algae problem in awhile.  I’ve seen dozens of beautiful photos taken there over the last couple months.  It’s there waiting for you.  There is still plenty of construction to talk about.

Please comment below if anything you see here is inaccurate or if there is anything I should add.  I try to stay up-to-date on things but occasionally fall behind. I update the information and photos throughout the quarter.


Photo taken December 23, 2012

Photo taken December 23, 2012

1. The Washington Monument (UPDATED)– There’s been some movement on this project, but not for the better.  The Monument suffered damage in the August 2011 earthquake.  It took awhile to diagnose exactly what happened, but the damage was quite extensive. You can see the extent of the  damage in an interactive tool hosted by the Washington Post.  Since that day the observation platform at the top has been closed and the area around the base has been fenced off.

  • Impact: HIGH – Construction materials have started to pile up around the base of the Monument and, of course, there are still the fences.  If you’re taking long distance photos or one’s that don’t include the base you’re still alright, but the scaffolding will be going up soon.  I’ve read articles saying that the current construction project will look similar to these photos from the last renovation in 1999, so there may be some cool, unique photo opportunities. The observation deck is closed and it is a unique place, offering views of DC that you can’t get anywhere else.  The Old Post Office Clock Tower offers the closest approximation but it’s just not the same.
  • Expected Completion: 2014– The National Park service recently named a contractor to lead the repair job.  This article from the Washington Post details some of what the repairs will entail and the timeline.  The renovations were expected to start by mid-November and are expected to last for 12-18 months.  It’s hard to say whether renovations have actually started yet.  The clock is ticking.


2. Washington National Cathedral – No change here.  The Cathedral also took a hit in the earthquake, losing some of the spires on the roof.  The interior is now open to the public and there is scaffolding around the exterior.

  • Impact: HIGH – While the exterior of the Cathedral ordinarily makes for great photographs, the equipment, scaffolding, and fencing makes this a poor time to go.  You can still get unobstructed views of the front of the Cathedral but the side is not picturesque (see photo below).  The interior of the Cathedral is the real attraction but netting spans the ceiling of the sanctuary to protect visitors from falling debris (see photo below). As masons check the ceiling there will be scaffolding set up on the interior as well.  There are a lot of opportunities for detail shots or photos in the smaller rooms, but when I was there recently I left feeling disappointed because of so many of my photos included the netting in the main sanctuary.  If you want to see some amazing, religious-oriented architecture, check out the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception or the Franciscan Monastery of DC instead.
  • Expected Completion: 2021 – That’s right, it could take as many as 10 years to complete all the renovations.  The stonework is very intricate and the stream of funding to make the repairs isn’t constant.  Talented photographer and Cathedral docent Chris Budny told me that it is likely things will be finished in stages.  The timeline is just too long to know what will be done first or give an exact date.


Photo taken April 29, 2012                       Photo taken December 29, 2012  


3. The Supreme Court – The Supreme Court building has been undergoing restoration work for years now, but until recently that work has stayed to the less visually interesting North and South sides.  Scaffolding has covered the more picturesque West side of the building for months.

  • Impact: HIGH – Scaffolding now covers the entire West side of the building.  A “scrim” has been put up over the scaffolding, which limits the eyesore a bit, but it feels like you’re taking a picture of a picture.  Work is also being done on the sidewalk in front of the building, which limits the angles from which you can take pictures of the scrim.  You can still take unobstructed photos inside the building.
  • Expected Completion: TBD – Articles I’ve read about this restoration effort don’t mention the timeline.  These things generally take longer than you think they should take.  My guess is that this will take at least a year, putting the estimated completion time somewhere in mid-2013.  I’ll keep you updated.
    SC Const 02           SC Const
    Photos taken December 18, 2012


Photo taken December 18, 2012

Photo taken December 18, 2012

4. The National Mall (UPDATED) – It’s done!!  There used to be fences, construction equipment, filling up a 4-5 block stretch of the National Mall.  This construction added better drainage, installed large cisterns that collect drained water, among other things.  For the time being, it is complete.  Unless something changes between now and April, I will scratch this off the list for the next Construction Update.

  • Impact: NONE– The fences came down prior to the inauguration and the grass in the renovated area looks nice.  There is also edging around the grassy areas.  There are still shorter fences at different points along the Mall but they won’t cause you as much grief as the construction equipment and piles of dirt did here.  There will likely be more construction along the Mall but who knows what will happen with that given the current budget situation.
  • Expected Completion: Done – I feel vindicated in my prediction for the timing of this.  About a week before the Inauguration the fences started coming down.  The NPS took great pains to protect the patches of grass by putting down mats for the inaugural clouds.


Photo taken December 21, 2012

Photo taken December 18, 2012

5. The U.S. Capitol (UPDATED) – The area to the West of the Capitol (the West Front) has been closed off since October to allow for Inauguration preparation and cleanup.  It is now almost complete.

  • Impact: LOW –  The area immediately to the West of the Capitol is still closed off.  I walked around the Capitol today (Feb, 28th) and crews were taking down some of the temporary fencing.  All of the trucks, trailers, construction equipment, and so forth wreaked having on the grass and that will likely take some time to fix.
  • Expected Completion: March 2013 – Things look pretty well wrapped up.  I’d imagine it won’t be more than a couple weeks until visitors can walk along the whole West side of the Capitol again, which is a relief because there are some beautiful flowering trees there that will start blooming sometime around the end of March.  Over the next couple months there will likely be extensive work on the landscaping and possibly some fencing to keep people off of it, but that usually isn’t too onerous.
Photo taken December 28, 2012

Photo taken December 28, 2012

6. Union Station – The exterior is getting better, the interior is getting worse. The city of Washington, DC has embarked on a long-term restoration of the area immediately in front of Union Station. The interior is also undergoing repair for damage suffered during the earthquake.

  • Impact: HIGH– The exterior construction is starting to wind down and is expected to be completed by mid-February.  It is now possible to get photos of the front of the Station without construction equipment or cones.  The interior is cluttered with scaffolding.  There are also nets hanging across the entire main hall to protect people from falling bits of plaster.  All of this makes for less than desirable photography.
  • Expected Completion: Exterior: March, 2013– Signage in front of Union Station gives a completion date of mid-February.  It always takes a bit longer than planned. Interior: late 2013 – early 2014– It’s hard to say but judging by the amount of scaffolding it looks like there’s still a lot of work to be done.  Once the restoration work is complete there are several additional construction projects scheduled for the Main Hall, meaning it may be several years before the interior is ready to photograph.


7. The National Museum of African American History and Culture – The newest Smithsonian Museum, set to open in 2015, is now just an open construction lot.

  • Impact: LOW – The reason I bring this up here is because I’ve gotten several great pictures of the Washington Monument during twilight from the place that is now fenced off for construction. At this point the museum is a gigantic hole in the ground.  It doesn’t really interfere with photos.
  • Expected Completion: 2015 – The museum is expected to be completed in 2015. I can’t tell from the drawings of the building whether there will still be a nice, unobstructed view of the Washington Monument from it’s grounds. But the museum itself will be a great photography subject.


1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – Shortly after the opening of the Memorial in August 2011, there was some controversy over one of the quotes carved into the side of the MLK statue that serves as the Memorial’s centerpiece.  It was finally decided that the quote would simply be scrubbed off the side of the statue.  This process is expected to start in February, 2013 and since their is no need to carve anything back into the stone, I don’t think it should take more than a couple weeks.

2. Constitution Gardens and the Washington MonumentThe Trust for the National Mall recently solicited design proposals for several areas along the National Mall, namely the area to the North of the Reflecting Pool known as Constitution Gardens and a theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument.  Winning designs have been selected but it is unclear how soon construction will begin, what it’s impact will be, and how long it will take.

3. American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial –  Construction hasn’t started yet, but this Memorial is supposed to go up in an area to the South of the National Botanic Gardens.  It is out of the way and won’t likely get in the way of your photos but it’s worth keeping in mind as a photo location in a year or two when it’s complete.

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial – A new memorial has been in the works for President Eisenhower for years now, but disagreements amongst the principal decision-makers (the architect, the family, contributors, etc.) over what is should look like have kept things from moving forward.

5. Old Post Office – Donald Trump bid for the rights to turn this national treasure into a gaudy hotel. Really it would benefit from any renovations that happen.  The interior is pretty said.  This project isn’t expected to start until 2015 and still has several procedural hurdles to jump through but I thought it couldn’t hurt my SEO to get The Donald’s name onto one of my webpages.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2013 6:13 pm

    Hi Brandon; thanks for the update around town – I never did get to see the new Reflecting Pool after the work and algae issue—got that on my list for spring!
    Thanks for mentioning the cathedral, too… Fingers crossed, the nave netting could be completely gone sometime in 2014. I’ll keep you posted on any developments when they get around to starting the ceiling vault re-mortar job! (PS—love that new HDR from the west balcony!)

  2. January 7, 2013 2:50 pm

    Glad to see you back! I still love this blog — it’s very inspiring. I LOVE your HDR work. I bought Photomatix a few weeks ago and have been bracketing *everything* (LOL). I’m from MN but I’m in DC once/month..I just got back from there last week and haven’t finished processing all of my pics. I was a bit peeved to see the Wash. Monument all fenced off (Boo!!) as I wanted to do a daytime long exposure w/ the clouds moving in the background. I did get to do it but because I had to be so far away, my composition wasn’t what I wanted it to be 😦 (Also, it was so, so windy that day that my fingers froze—HOWEVER, still much warmer than MN!)

    I do like your photo with the fenced off Washington Monument…yeah, I might have try & “replicate” your photo 🙂 I’ll have to work the under construction element into my upcoming photos of it. I’m back in DC next week, so I’m going to get out and photograph more stuff.

    • January 7, 2013 5:37 pm

      I’m glad you’ve found this so useful Melissa and that you’re wracking up the HDR brackets.

      Are you going to be here for the Inauguration? I’m sure that will make for some interesting photos. Unfortunately, I can’t make it out for that.

      As for the “replication” of photos…that is exactly what this site is for. It gives people a jumping off point so they can have add their own flavor to the photos without trying to figure out where to go first. Most of my photography starts out as replication of someone’s photos. I’ve always been an advocate of replication.

      Do you post your pictures anywhere? I’d love to see what you came away with.

      By the way, I’m from North Dakota, so I know what you mean about the cold 🙂 Good luck with your photos.

  3. January 10, 2013 4:38 pm

    Hi, Brandon:
    Thanks for the update. I’ve checked your postings periodically in the past and have always found them helpful. I do a fair amount of shooting around the city so the information you provide is an excellent resource. By the way, great shot in DCist the other day. Keep up the good work.

    • January 10, 2013 9:50 pm

      Thanks Robin. I’m glad you’ve been finding the site helpful. Do you have your photos posted anywhere? I’d love to see them.

      • January 10, 2013 10:52 pm

        Sure do. Just check my website at Let me know what you think.

      • January 10, 2013 11:01 pm

        Very cool. I really like the one of the White House from the elevated position. Is that from on top of the Chamber of Commerce building? If so, how do I get up there? I’ve always wanted to take a picture from up there. Thanks for sharing!

      • January 11, 2013 9:20 am

        Yes, that was the location. A friend who worked there made the arrangements for me to have access to the roof. Unfortunately, he has since retired so I no longer have a connection.

      • January 11, 2013 10:21 am

        I’ll have to figure out a way to get up there. By the way, I really liked your site. I viewed it on an iPad and the interface was very well done. It was like navigating on an iPad. The content was great too of course.

  4. Ann permalink
    April 10, 2013 5:45 pm

    I’m eager to see the April edition!

    Also, I’m curious about the photos you posted on Flickr recently of the Russell Senate and Cannon House office buildings’ rotundas. There doesn’t seem to be any visitor information available for them. What is the security like? Can anybody just show up and take photos?

    • April 10, 2013 6:27 pm

      Thanks for the prompting Ann. I haven’t had much of a chance to get out and take the pictures I like to include with the construction report, but I’ll start working on the article tomorrow and post the pictures once I get them.

      As for the Russell and Cannon, I know what you mean. I was really nervous about getting turned away. It turns out that was all unnecessary. You go through security, but you don’t need to have business in the building to enter. Nobody said anything to me.

      • Ann permalink
        April 10, 2013 6:32 pm

        Cool, thanks. Is it just the normal ‘make sure you don’t have weapons’ security, not the annoying extra restrictions like the Capitol building has?

      • April 10, 2013 9:17 pm

        Yep. Nothing special.

    • Ann permalink
      April 19, 2013 11:52 pm

      How’s it coming? 🙂 I found some information on some projects at (you may already know about that page?), but I’m still hoping for yours.

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