“There are thousands of people in line waiting to get inside,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, Monday morning. The 555-foot obelisk had been closed since August 2011, after a 5.8 earthquake. More than 14,000 feet of mortar and installed metal cradle anchors were used to reinforce the stone ribs sustaining the monument’s pyramidion. 132 chunks of stone were replaced with marble from the same Maryland. The reopened monument now bears visible scars that clash with the softer hue of the older stones. A new exhibit on George Washington’s legacy and the history of the monument’s construction was opened inside.
The monument is highly significant for the US history. Plans to build a structure to honor George Washington were first approved by the Continental Congress in 1783, before he became the first president. The Monument was the world’s tallest building when it was dedicated. Its marble blocks are held together by just gravity and friction, and no mortar was used in the process. Construction paused for 20 years when funds dried up in 1856. It was first opened to the public in 1886. A strange coincidence to be noticed: in a speech written by Robert Winthrop, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony in 1845, there was the phrase “An earthquake may shake its foundations … but the character which it commemorates and illustrates is secure.”