The Washington Monument Is Open Again: A Brief History Of All The Times It Wasn't
Monday saw the official re-opening of the Washington Monument, having been damaged by a rare D.C.-area earthquake back in 2011. Marred at the time by various cracks, faults and chips as a result of the 5.8 magnitude quake, the monument had to undergo significant repairs and upgrades, to ensure both its present stability and protection from any more tremors. But that wasn't the first time the towering monument, which ranks as the world's tallest obelisk, has been shut down to the public.
In fact, the Washington Monument has had a variety of issues since its construction, which spanned from 1848 to 1884 — a staggering 36 years from inception to finished product, though construction was suspended for 23 of those, interrupted in part by the Civil War.
In 1982, the monument briefly became the site of a tense, life-threatening standoff between U.S. park authorities and Norman Mayer, an anti-nuclear weapons activist who parked a white van at the monument's base before announcing he'd filled it with explosives, threatening to bring down one of America's oldest, most revered sites, likely killing the eight tourists which Mayer trapped inside in the process. After hours of negotiation, Mayer attempted to flee and was shot dead, revealing that he'd lied and had no explosives at all.
The Washington Monument was also extensively renovated from 1998 through 2001, stopping any visitors from ascending to its peak. In an effort to dull the sting of the long closure, a temporary visitor's center was added, which allowed people to simulate a ride to the top and get relevant information about the construction project, or the monument's history — an admirable effort, admittedly, but surely cold comfort for anyone truly dedicated to fully experiencing such a historical location.
The 2011 earthquake ended up sending the monument back into renovation faster than anybody expected. Still, its aesthetic while being worked on was still nothing to sneeze at: Fully encased in scaffolding and warmly, strikingly backlit, the Washington skyline at night may have been a little more cluttered with construction going on, but it was still pretty easy on the eyes.
The price tag to revive the monument from its post-quake falter wasn't cheap, though obviously Washington hurls around so much money as to make it seem like chump change. It cost $15 million in total, half of which was paid via donation by David Rubenstein, a founder of massive private-equity firm The Carlyle Group.
The first tours Monday are set to kick off at 1:00 PM ET, which is to say, they're running right now! Welcome back, Washington Monument, we all missed you.