The Washington Monument is set to reopen to the public on Monday. For close to 1,000 days, it has remained closed after suffering damage from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011. Extensive repairs were needed after the earthquake shook a few stones loose and created wide cracks. Debris fell from the exterior and interior of the 555 foot tall monument dedicated to George Washington.
A damage assessment to the monument began with inspectors lowering themselves from the top and conducting a detailed examination of all the stones. Upon a close inspection, the stones were overdue for repairs. Cracks needed filling, large slabs of marble needed to be dug out and replaced and joints required smoothing and cleanings. Most of the monument’s damage was near the top. Over 2.7 miles of new sealant needed to be placed between the stones. Fifty-three stainless steel saddle anchors were bolted to keep the roof in place. Before the anchors, only gravity held the triangular roof up.
The most visible aspect of the repair of the Washington Monument was the external scaffolding that began going up in February 2013. Wooden braces supported the scaffolding and served as padding every 26 feet up.
The original cost of repairing the Washington Monument was $15 million. The bill was cut in half when David Rubenstein, a local businessman, contributed $7.5 million to the renovation project. Rubenstein believes the National Park Service and the teams of workers sent to repair the Washington Monument did a spectacular job. He is happy the public will soon be able to enjoy the extraordinary views of the nation’s capital from the monument’s observation deck. He hopes people will take a moment to reflect upon the spectacular deeds someone like George Washington did to make the US possible.
A reopening ceremony for the Washington Monument will take place on Monday, May 12 at 10 a.m. Tours inside will resume at 1 p.m. A fence surrounding the outer perimeter has been removed as well as a construction road. An inner perimeter fence will remain in place for the reopening ceremony. Normal hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
The Washington Monument usually has 600,000 visitors annually. When tickets became available at the monument’s official website on April 16th, over 16,000 were claimed by the public within a few minutes. The next available tour of the Washington Monument is June 19.
Robert Collie is a project manager for Perini Management Services. His firm supervised the repairs and found completing the work on the Washington Monument as a bittersweet moment. He had made so many friends during the repair work. Those teams are moving on to other projects.
Original construction began on July 4, 1848. Between 1858 and 1878 work was halted because of a lack of funds. The monument was completed in 1884 and dedicated on February 21 of that year. Since that time, it has weathered snow, rain, wind and sleet. With the repairs now complete and tours of the Washington Monument sold out until June 19, the public will have their first opportunity to climb to the top and gaze out upon the Washington D.C. skyline since 2011.
By Brian T. Yates
The Washington Post