WASHINGTON — The Washington Monument, one of the nation's oldest and most readily recognized memorials, will be obscured by scaffolding beginning in 1998 and closed to the public for about three months as it undergoes a $5-million face lift.
The ambitious three-year repair project will be the most comprehensive since the 555-foot-tall obelisk was completed in 1884. In addition to replacing the monument's aging elevator and air-conditioning, workers will be refurbishing 64,000 linear feet of exterior joints and 39,000 linear feet of interior joints.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said Thursday that donations will pay for the refurbishing and an architect will be commissioned to design the scaffolding that will encase the monument while it undergoes its historic renovation.
Babbitt was joined at a news conference at the monument by officials from Minneapolis-based Target Stores, which donated $1 million for the renovation and raised the rest from other private donors.
"The rehabilitation would start next year during the construction season, and the target for finishing it would be sometime in the year 2000," said National Park Service spokesman Earle Kittleman. "The rehabilitation will involve completely shrouding the Washington Monument from the base to the top in scaffolding so workers can check all the mortar joints, clean the external surface of the memorial and examine it closely."
The replacement of the monument's elevator, which dates to the 1950s and transports an average of 2,500 people daily, is expected to close the monument for three to four months--the longest closure in its history.