A Grand Reopening

The Washington Monument welcomes back visitors after 33 months of repair

May 12, 2014

Visitors wait in line for the reopening of the Washington Monument on May 12, 2014.

Ever since it was completed, in 1885, the Washington Monument has been a favorite stop for visitors to Washington, D.C. But in 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the area. Parts of the stone tower were cracked and broken. For safety reasons, the monument was closed to visitors.

Complex repairs had to be made to the monument. Workers were on the job for 33 months. "We can't wait for visitors to come back to the monument," National Park Service spokesman Brian Hall told TFK. Now that the work is finally finished, that time has come. Starting today, May 12, people will be able to visit the Washington Monument once again. Visitors lined up in the early morning hours to get tickets to enter the monument. Though the tickets are free, they are necessary to control crowds.

An observation window at the top of the monument looks down on the Jefferson Memorial.

An observation window at the top of the monument looks down on the Jefferson Memorial.

A Tricky Fix

After the earthquake, engineers checked each stone in the 550-foot-tall monument, and found more than 150 cracks. The worst damage was at the very top, where the monument shook the most during the earthquake.

Repair work started at the top of the structure and moved downward. But first, a 500-ton framework of metal and wood had to be built around it for workers to climb on. Workers replaced stones and sealed cracks inside and outside the building. The repairs cost $15 million. Philanthropist David Rubenstein donated $7.5 million of the total repair cost. “[The monument] symbolizes many things for our country – the freedoms, patriotism, George Washington, leadership,” Rubenstein told the Associated Press. “So it’s been moving to see how many people are affected by it.”

High in the Sky

The Washington Monument is the tallest building in our nation's capital. Inside the monument, visitors can ride an elevator to the top. There is an observation area with windows that look down on the city. "It's an amazing experience to be able to see all of D.C. from one location," Hall said. "It's the best view in town."

The monument is also a National Historic Landmark, meaning it is a structure officially honored by the American government for its important role in our nation’s heritage.

The monument’s home, the National Mall, is a large park with  museums, statues, monuments, and gardens. Some of the monuments were built in memory of U.S. presidents. Others honor the men and women who served in our nation's armed forces. Museums on the Mall include the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Air and Space Museum, all telling different parts of American history.

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