Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Washington Monument to reopen after nearly three years

WASHINGTON — More than 150 cracks have been repaired, rainwater leaks have been sealed, and the 130-year-old Washington Monument will reopen today for the first time in nearly three years since an earthquake caused widespread damage.

The memorial honoring George Washington has been closed for about 33 months for engineers to conduct an extensive analysis and restoration of the 555-foot stone obelisk that was once the tallest structure in the world.

The monument's white marble and mortar were cracked and shaken loose during an unusual 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August 2011 that sent some of the worst vibrations to the top. Debris fell inside and outside the monument, and visitors scrambled to evacuate. Later, engineers evaluated the damage by rappelling from the top, dangling from ropes.

New exhibits have been installed, and visitors can once again ride an elevator to look out from the highest point in the nation's capital. The full restoration cost $15 million. Businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein contributed $7.5 million to pay half the cost and expedite the repairs.

Rubenstein told the Associated Press on Sunday that he was surprised how much the monument means to people who have written him letters and email. He said he's pleased the job was done on time and on budget.

"It became clear to me that the Washington Monument symbolizes many things for our country — the freedoms, patriotism, George Washington, leadership," he said. "So it's been moving to see how many people are affected by it."

During an early look at the restored monument, Rubenstein hiked to the top, taking the stairs in a suit and tie. Memorial plaques inside the monument from each state seemed to be clean and intact, and the view "is really spectacular," he said.

The billionaire co-CEO of the Carlyle Group has been urging other philanthropists to engage in what he calls "patriotic philanthropy." In time, he predicts more philanthropists will make similar gifts. Rubenstein is co-chair of a campaign to raise funds to help restore the National Mall, serves as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and is chairman of the Kennedy Center. He has also made major gifts to the National Archives and Library of Congress.

During the monument's restoration, the AP had a look at some of the worst damage from the 500-foot level. Stones were chipped and cracked all the way through with deep gashes in some places. Others had hairline cracks that had to be sealed.

Some damaged marble was replaced with salvaged material or stone from the same Maryland quarry as the monument's original marble. The replacement stone had been saved from the steps of old Baltimore row houses.

The monument was built in two phases between 1848 and 1884. When it was completed, it was the world's tallest structure for five years until it was eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The monument remains the world's tallest freestanding stone structure.

It normally draws about 700,000 visitors a year. The National Park Service will offer extended hours to visit the monument beginning Tuesday and through the summer from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Tickets can be reserved online at Recreation.gov.

Visiting the top has been a highlight for millions of people over the decades during tours of the nation's capital, said Caroline Cunningham, president of the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, which is working to raise private funds to support the national park. The monument is expected to draw big crowds this year.

"The American people really gravitate to the Washington Monument," Cunningham said. "George Washington being our leader, it connects them to their country in a very personal way."

The 130-year-old Washington Monument will reopen to the public on today, about 33 months after it was closed because of damage from an earthquake.

Associated Press

The 130-year-old Washington Monument will reopen to the public on today, about 33 months after it was closed because of damage from an earthquake.

Washington Monument to reopen after nearly three years 05/12/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2014 11:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Remnants of tropical wave continues to bring rain through the weekend

    Blogs

    After relatively dry weather through the first half of the workweek, the tropical wave remnants continue to bring an increased threat for showers and storms across the state and Tampa Bay.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast
  2. Harvey regains tropical storm strength in Gulf of Mexico

    Blogs

    MIAMI (AP) — Harvey regained tropical storm strength as it drifted in the Gulf of Mexico toward Texas early Thursday and forecasters said it could become a hurricane.

    Leo Sermiento, left, and Emilio Gutierrez, right, fill sandbags in preparation of a tropical system on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, on South Padre Island, Texas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to elevate its readiness level and is making state resources available for preparation and possible rescue and recovery actions amid forecasts a tropical storm will make landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast.
  3. Largest Powerball jackpot won by single ticket in Massachusetts

    Blogs

    DES MOINES, Iowa - Powerball Product Group Chair Charlie McIntyre says the $758.7 million jackpot claimed by a ticket sold in Massachusetts is the largest grand prize won by a single lottery ticket in U.S. history.

    A Powerball lottery sign displays the lottery prizes at a convenience store Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in Northbrook, Ill. Lottery officials said the grand prize for Wednesday night's drawing has reached $700 million, the second -largest on record for any U.S. lottery game.
  4. Florida education news: Computer coding, guidance counseling, career planning and more

    Blogs

    SESSION STARTERS: State Sen. Jeff Brandes refiles legislation to allow Florida high school students to swap computer coding for foreign language credits.

  5. Rays morning after: Offense showing some life

    Blogs