After three years of repairs, the Washington monument reopened to the public on Thursday.
First lady Melania Trump joined National Park Service officials and Washington fourth grade students in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the monument's opening.
The ceremony lasted approximately two minutes, ending with two of the three scissors -- including the first lady’s -- failing to cut the ribbon. Afterwards, she hugged the children, passed out National Park discount passes to the students and entered the monument. The students were left outside, but waved their new passes and smiled for the news cameras.
On Wednesday, ABC News got a sneak peek of the renovated monument. Visitors now have to go through an airport-like security checkpoint and then they pass through huge, metal vault-like doors at the only entrance to the obelisk.
"This is one of the premiere icons of our nation and so the security sought to make sure we were protecting it," said Brian Hill, a public information officer for the National Park Service. "And we take the protection of it and our visitors very seriously."
Upon entering, one can see graffiti carved into the stone, which dates back to the Civil War. While the public can see this piece of history, they won’t be able to see everything buried within the stone walls. The National Park Service confirmed with ABC News that somewhere in the monument a copy of the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence are hidden, both dating back to the 18th Century.
As Washington's tallest structure, the obelisk stands 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches above the mall and was originally completed in 1884. It took approximately 40 years to construct, with a delay for the Civil War. When the obelisk was first completed, it was the tallest building in the world.
While the monument clearly has historical importance, the spectacular views of the National Mall and Washington will certainly draw crowds. To get to the top, visitors will have to use the completely new self-balancing elevator system. It takes 70 seconds to reach the top.
Businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein went 519 feet above the city today for a look at the newly refurbished Washington Monument elevator. We are grateful for his continued support and his $3 million donation to modernize the elevator. pic.twitter.com/OoB9uNNK2d— National Mall NPS (@NationalMallNPS) September 17, 2019
As visitors travel back down in the elevator, they will able to see inscriptions featured inside the monument through the partial glass walls.
"We're frankly excited to get the monument back open to the public," Hill said. "We have missed having our public visiting us."
Currently, the park service is handing out tickets starting at 8:30 a.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis. Eventually, there will be a reservation system online. Visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This is not the first time the monument has been closed for repairs in recent years. It closed from 1998 to 2001 for restoration and, after an earthquake, closed for repairs from 2011 to 2014.
The monument most recently closed in 2016 after an elevator cable snapped. Hill told ABC News that while they were going to renovate the whole elevator system, they decided to also upgrade and update the facility's security.