Washington Monument to Reopen After Three Years – Smart Media Magazine

Washington Monument to Reopen After Three Years

Visitors to Washington can once again survey the city and gaze upon its surroundings from a beloved vantage.

After being closed for more than three years, the Washington Monument, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and one of the world’s tallest free-standing masonry structures at 555 feet, is set to reopen to the public on Sept. 19.

The monument had been closed since August 2016 in order to modernize its elevator system and to complete work on a security screening facility outside. The elevator’s operating system had not been updated since 1998 and was increasingly unable to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors who ride up to the observation deck each year, sometimes breaking down during operating hours, leaving visitors stuck at the top or forcing them to evacuate down the structure’s nearly 900 steps.

The new operation should be a familiar, if slightly more streamlined version of what visitors have experienced in the past, according to Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service. The new security facility, which Mr. Litterst likened to a security checkpoint at an airport with X-ray bag screeners and a magnetometer, replaces a temporary facility that had been set up at the monument since 2001.

The reopening brings cautious hope of moving beyond a troubled stretch over which the monument has been closed for repairs for more than half of the past decade.

“I guess there’s an assumption that the federal government will take care of all of that, but the government doesn’t really have the money for all this,” he said.

Securing funding has been a source of struggle since efforts began in earnest to construct the monument in 1833. Early plans envisioned a project built through private funding, from donations of no more than $1 per year from individual contributors. However by 1847, after more than a decade of fund-raising, the society organizing the project had raised only $87,000, far less than the final cost of $1,187,710 when the monument was completed in 1884. Congress eventually covered most of the remaining funding after construction stalled in 1854, famously leaving the structure standing partly finished for more than two decades.

“They wanted to make it an effort of the people,” said John Steele Gordon, the author of “Washington’s Monument: And the Fascinating History of the Obelisk.” “They just weren’t able to raise the money, and Congress realized it wasn’t going to happen and therefore they stepped in to finish it.”

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