The first memorial to be placed inside the Washington Monument in 46 years--a jade stone belatedly paying Alaska's respects to the late George Washington--will be set into the interior walls near the top of the monument later this month, the National Park Service announced.
It's not that the news of Washington's death in 1799 and the building of a monument in his memory in the 1800s was slow in reaching Alaska.
"No one thought about it until recently when we were discussing getting Alaska's name on the Lincoln Memorial," said Peggy Hackett, manager of Gov. Jay Hammond's Washington office.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said, however, that the state has been interested for many years in having an Alaskan stone added to the 188 memorial stones now adorning the inside walls of the 555-foot monument.
Since construction of the obelisk began in 1848, stone tributes have been contributed by foreign nations, states, cities, territories, Indian tribes, fire departments, Sunday-school classes, labor unions, and temperance groups, as well as individuals.
Several were lost or stolen, including a huge ancient Roman marble block donated by Pope Pius IX, stolen from the monument grounds in 1854 and apparently dumped into the Potomac River by members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party.
The last memorial stone to be installed--in 1936--was from the territory of Hawaii.
Officials of both Alaska and Hawaii, which became states in 1959, have been lobbying for several years to have their state names carved on the Lincoln Memorial.
Two rows of engraved state names ring the top of the memorial, indicating the 36 states in the Union when Lincoln died and the 48 states in 1922 when the memorial was completed.
Alaska and Hawaii don't want to rewrite history, but would like an addendum of some sort to grant them recognition as members of the United States.
Their latest proposal, expected to go before the Fine Arts Commission next month, calls for discreetly carving the two states' names on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with an explanation in granite of why their names are not seen on top of the memorial.
Gov. Hammond and the Alaskan congressional delegation will present the two-by-three-foot Washington Monument stone, from Jade Mountain, Alaska, to the Park Service Feb. 21, the eve of the 250th anniversary of Washington's birth.