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Supreme Court cover up revealed

Oh, not that kind.

Take a good look at the familiar front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, because it's about to go under wraps.

Starting next week, workmen will begin putting up scaffolding along the entire West front of the building, the side that faces the U.S. Capitol, according to a court official. After the scaffolding is completed, a huge fabric covering will be stretched over the framework, concealing both the scaffolding and the building.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

A dentil molding from the facade of the Supreme Court is damaged after a piece of the marble detail fell from the building in Washington, D.C., November 28, 2005. The marble chunk, above the allegorical figure representing "Order," fell about an hour before the court opened without causing any injuries.

However, the fabric will be imprinted with an image of the court building, so it will be like looking at a huge sketch or photo, reminding passersby of the splendid building hidden beneath.

The reason for this extensive work goes back to one morning in November 2005, when a chunk of marble about the size of a loaf of bread came loose from the building and crashed onto the steps below. No one was hurt. 

The piece came from a section just above the figures carved into marble in the triangular pediment over the steps. A short time later, a wire mesh surrounding that area was installed as a temporary measure to prevent any further pieces from falling. But conservators decided the building needed more extensive work to avoid any similar disasters.

During the roughly two years that the covering will be in place, mortar in the 80-year-old building will be examined and replaced, and carved elements on the marble facade will be strengthened as needed.