Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, philanthropist David Rubenstein, and Trust for the National Mall President Caroline Cunningham to re-open the Washington Monument nearly three years after an earthquake significantly damaged its marble and granite structure.
"Thanks to the generosity and patriotism of David Rubenstein, a strong public-private partnership with the Trust, and the dedication and skill of countless National Park Service employees and contractors, the Washington Monument is now open to visitors," Jewell said. "The enduring spirit of public and private donations throughout the history of the Monument continues to live on today with its re-opening. We invite the public to once again enjoy the unparalleled view of our nation's capital from the top of one of the most iconic symbols of democracy in our country."
Jewell recognized Rubenstein for his gift of $7.5 million, or half the cost of repairing the monument, and noted that it continues a long tradition of public-private partnerships dating back to the initial construction of the monument in 1848, which was funded by a citizen's group led by Chief Justice John Marshall. She then joined a group of wounded veterans who took the day's first elevator ride to the observation area at the monument's 500-foot level.
"It is only appropriate that those who have sacrificed for our nation should be the first today to reach the top of a monument dedicated to George Washington, a man who reluctantly left private life to serve his country, first as a soldier and later as president," Jewell said.
The monument was damaged by the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that rattled the Washington area on August 23, 2011. Though structurally sound, internal and external structural damage was discovered in many areas.
"Repairing the Washington Monument included the painstaking process of inspecting more than 20,000 stones, repairing cracks, securing loose stones, installing steel supports and repairing extensive damage to the elevator, in addition to completing a thorough seismic study," Jarvis said. "Our staff and contractors did a fantastic job completing this important project on time and on budget."
"The National Park Service and contractors did a spectacular job repairing the monument, and I am glad that everyone can once again enjoy the unique views from the top and also have a chance to think about the extraordinary things George Washington did for our country," said philanthropist David Rubenstein.
"Thanks to this successful public-private partnership, visitors can once again view the full grandeur of the National Mall from the top of its stunning centerpiece," said Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall. "I hope the patriotic spirit of this historic event helps build new stewards of the National Mall across the country."
Public tours of the Washington Monument are available on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. each morning at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street, between Madison and Jefferson Drives. Tickets can also be obtained in advance at www.recreation.gov.