10 Facts About the Washington Monument as It Reopens

PHOTO: The Washington Monument this Oct. 1, 2013 file photo.

The Washington Monument is back in business.

After a nearly three-year, $15 million renovation to repair damage caused by the earthquake that shook its foundation in August 2011, the iconic marble tower reopened during a ceremony Monday morning, allowing the first visitors to travel to the top since the earthquake hit.

The earthquake left a crack at the top of the monument and many smaller ones throughout.

Federal taxpayers footed $7.5 million of the cost. The other $7.5 million came from David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a Washington-based asset management firm that manages $199 billion across 120 funds.

PHOTO: This June 2, 2013 file photo shows a damaged stone on the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
Alex Brandon/AP Photo
PHOTO: This June 2, 2013 file photo shows a damaged stone on the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

Rubenstein has said he wants donors to follow a model of "patriotic philanthropy." He has made major gifts to the National Archives and Library of Congress, The Associated Press reported.

At the ceremony, Rubenstein called his donation a "symbol of what I think other Americans can do with their money."

For 32 months, tourists were barred from entering the memorial after the 5.8-magnitude earthquake caused more than 150 cracks in the solid stone structure.

Normally, the monument attracts upwards of 625,000 visitors to the observation deck and millions to its grounds.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell thanked Parks Service employees and the contractors who repaired the monument for fixing it "safely, structurally sound, on time and on budget."

To accommodate larger-than-normal crowds, the monument is holding extended hours though this summer.

Finally getting the chance to visit? Here are 10 facts you should know:

1. The speaker of the House basically predicted an earthquake more than a century ago. Rep. Robert Winthrop, a guest at the 1848 cornerstone dedication ceremony, proclaimed, "The storms of winter must blow and beat upon it ... the lightnings of Heaven may scar and blacken it. An earthquake may shake its foundations ... but the character which commemorates and illustrates it is secure."

2. At the time of its completion in 1884, the 555-foot, 5.125-inch structure was the tallest building in the world. But it's nearly 45 inches shorter than initially planned and lacks several elements of the original design, including 30 stone columns and an elaborate statue of George Washington astride a horse-drawn chariot. Though it was eclipsed as the world's tallest building by the Eiffel Tower in 1889, the monument remained the planet's tallest freestanding stone structure.

3. The Washington Monument may be the most impressive tribute to America's founding president -- but it's certainly not the first. The city of Boonsboro, Maryland, erected a 34-foot tower in honor of George Washington in 1927. And in 1929, Baltimore built a 179-foot Washington Monument, designed by the same man who planned the monument in D.C.

4. Relics from Washington's tenure -- including a personal portrait, copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, an American flag and newspapers from at least 14 states -- are hidden in the 24,500-pound cornerstone.

5. Three future presidents, including then-obscure Rep. Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State James Buchanan and Rep. Andrew Johnson, attended the cornerstone ceremony in 1848. (Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, Jewell and "American Idol" winner Candice Glover attended the reopening ceremony Monday.)

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