Washington Monument reopens after three years

The Washington Monument reopens to the public Monday after nearly three years of work repairing damage wrought when an earthquake struck the capital on August 23, 2011. Several historic structures were harmed by the quake, but after initial repairs the National Cathedral and the Smithsonian Castle could remain open. The Washington Monument was not so lucky.

It’s a hollow obelisk 555 feet high made out of three different kinds of marble and 36,000 stone blocks. When the earthquake struck, it whipsawed the obelisk, showering debris on the tourists climbing its vertiginous heights. Thankfully nobody was injured, but the monument was immediately closed for assessment. The National Park Service found one large crack four feet long and one inch wide, more than 150 other fractures and cracks, chipped and gashed stones, lost and loosened mortar, damage to the lightning protection system and elevator.

The estimated budget for repairs was $15 million. Congress voted to fund the work to the tune of $7.5 million but only on condition that the National Park Service secure matching funds. Private equity billionaire and dedicated history nerd David Rubenstein stepped up to the plate and donated the necessary $7.5 million and the repair project began in earnest in early 2012.

It required 2.7 miles of new sealant between stones, and 53 stainless steel “saddle anchors” to bolt in place slabs on the monument’s slanted pyramidion in case of another earthquake.

The slabs had been held in place mainly by gravity, and engineers worried that the slabs could fall off, James M. Perry, the chief of resource management for the mall and memorial parks, said Saturday. […]

In addition to the earthquake damage, the monument, which was begun in 1848 and finished in 1884, had seen more than a century of rain, snow, sleet and wind. Up close, it was a patchwork of repairs going back decades.

Cracks needed to be filled. Loose hunks of marble had to be dug out and replaced with scores of individual patches called “dutchmen.” Joints had to be smoothed and cleaned. Most of the damage was near the top.

Officials have said 150 dutchman patches were used, so many that work crews ran out of spare marble they had on hand for repairs. But a company was found that had salvaged old marble steps from homes in Baltimore. And that marble had come from the same quarry as some of the monument marble.

The repairs were complete on time and on budget. The Washington Monument will be officially reopened at 10 AM with a ceremony hosted by Al Roker and attended by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, National Mall & Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel and of course David Rubenstein. Entertainment will be provided by American Idol Season 12 winner Candice Glover, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, the United States Navy Band, and the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir.

The event will be open to the public and tours of the monument will begin at 1:00 PM. Tickets are first come, first served, so if you want to be in the first wave of visitors to the repaired Washington Monument, you’ll want to line up early. The ticket office opens at 8:30 AM.

5 thoughts on “Washington Monument reopens after three years

  1. I’m not sure that you should have called David Rubenstein a “dedicated history nerd” unless you think that’s a compliment… maybe I’m just behind the times, but I should think that you would be stoked that someone came up with the money to help repair the monument and wouldn’t call them a “nerd.”

  2. So, the monument would not have been repaired without a private donation? Odd, to say the least.

    1. I think after some politicking the restoration would have been funded publically, although possibly with a lower budget than ideal. The Washington Monument is visited by 700,000 people a year. Congress couldn’t have just let it collapse.

  3. Given the fact that the clowns in congress can find infinite ways to throw away money. From studying the sex lives of monkeys to shoveling money at countries who hate us and wish us death, it’s highly ironic that they couldn’t find the money to repair a monument to our greatest president.The reluctance on the part of congress to provide the funds for the refurbishment of the monument are indicative of the lack of respect most modern day politicians hold for our founders and our nation. After all, President Washington is dead and unlike the Chinese or Saudi Arabia, he can’t contribute piles of money to their coffers.

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