By Eva Lynch
The marble obelisk that is the Washington Monument has long served as the centerpiece of the National Mall and an icon representing the history of this nation. And after three long years of construction, Washington D.C.’s beloved Washington Monument has reopened as of September 19th, opening for the first time since most Catholic University students have moved to the D.C. area.
As is to be expected of a 171-year-old structure, the monument frequently demands repairs and modernization, especially in light of recent dangerous incidents. Incidents include the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the National Mall in August of 2011. Though it continues to stand tall, the monument suffered more 150 cracks to its foundation as a result of this quake. The monument has been closed previously because of elevator repairs. Instead of periodic shutdowns every time the elevator stopped working, the National Park Service chose to close the monument for three years of construction dedicated to repairs as well as a more modern Visitor Screening Center. Issues with the newly-renovated elevator have already occured; forty visitors were trapped at the top of the monument for one hour due to an operator error early September.
The new 1000-square-foot visitor screening center replaced the old 450-square-foot visitor center which was established as a guard against terrorism after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
“The new glass and steel facility will offer full ballistic and blast protection and includes queuing space for 18-20 visitors at a time, screening equipment, an accessible restroom for National Park Service and U.S. Park Police staff and a security office,” according to the National Park Service website.
The new center also boasts heavy steel construction and a newly enforced concrete foundation. In total, elevator repairs and the new screening center cost a total of $10.7 billion.
Principal donors to this operation include David M. Rubenstein, a philanthropist who has contributed to many other historic projects in the District, including the Lincoln Memorial and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument.
Visitors to the Washington Monument are now free to take advantage of the new and improved Washington Monument, as well as the 70-second elevator ride up to the 500-foot observation deck overlooking the U.S. Capitol, Washington National Cathedral, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. The monument is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and tickets go on sale at 8:30 a.m., operating on a first-come, first-served basis in the Washington Monument Lodge. Tours will begin on October 19th, and tickets for these go on sale on October 10th. More information on ticket prices and tour times can be found here. Some analysts say that the attention and dedication to repairs and modernization of the Washington Monument, as well as its long-awaited reopening, are evidence of the Trump Administration’s commitment to better national parks and public attractions across the nation.