Washington Monument Reopens

Visitors to the nation’s capital this summer will miss what has become a familiar landmark in itself: the scaffolding around the Washington Monument.

The 116-year-old marble monument, which has been off-limits since December, will reopen Monday after three years of renovations costing more than $10 million. Visitors will find a new exhibit 490 feet off the ground, a refurbished 500-foot-high observation deck with high ceilings and clean windows, and the smooth, clean exterior made possible by all that scaffolding.

It Was Looking Shabby

It was high time for a facelift, says Robert Fudge, the deputy chief of visitor services for Washington’s National Park Service, who worked on the project.

After a renovation about 10 years ago opened up the crystalline marble lobby, raising the ceilings and removing some ugly 1960s wainscoting and plaster, Fudge said, the top floors started to look a little shabby by comparison.

What with the pipes and plexiglass lining the walls, scratches scarring the windows, and dingy floors, Fudge said, “It was sort of anticlimactic after entering through that beautiful lobby.”

But now, he says, the pipes have been removed, revealing the material of the monument itself. “It’s a much more bright, more dignified, and more exciting space to be in than it was before. It’s a good treatment for a historic structure because it does highlight the structure itself and not try to upstage it in any way.”

Visitors Can Reserve Tickets

Free reserved tickets, available on the monument grounds or in advance through Ticketmaster, should help ease the congestion around the monument, National Park Service officials say. The ticket system, also used by other tourist attractions on the National Mall, has been in force since 1997, says Loren Goering of the National Park Service.

A temporary interactive museum at the obelisk’s base, installed to amuse tourists during the construction, will be open through Labor Day.

The multimedia center, donated by Discovery Communications, didn’t fully make up for the thrill of visiting the monument, Goering says. But “people were also happy that it’s being fixed and renovated, so it’ll survive all the better,” he says.