With 500,000 visitors a year, the monument honors George Washington, a Revolutionary War hero and the nation’s first president.
“The closure of the monument was just as frustrating to the National Park Service as it was to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that weren’t able to go up for the last years,” said Mike Litterst, a Park Service spokesman for the Mall and memorial parks. “We are thrilled beyond words to be in the home stretch and now actually have an identified date when we’ll be able to start welcoming people back to the monument.”
Same-day tickets for opening day and tours through Oct. 18 will be available on a first come, first served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the lodge near the base of the monument, on 15th Street near Madison Drive.
The monument will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Starting Oct. 10, tickets also can be ordered at recreation.gov for tours beginning Oct. 19.
The reopening comes after earthquake damage to the interior and exterior of the 555-foot marble and granite structure forced its closure for 2½ years as it underwent repairs that cost about $15 million.
The work was funded by the government and a $7.5 million donation from local businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.
Then, between 2014, when it reopened after the earthquake, and 2016, the monument’s elevator broke down 24 times, often stranding visitors who rode it to the top.
The monument was closed again in 2016.
With a further $3 million donation from Rubenstein, the Park Service began fixing the elevator and with government funds began work on a new security screening facility.
The Park Service, in its statement about the reopening, called it “another example of how the Trump Administration is enhancing visitors’ experiences at national parks and public lands by better meeting critical infrastructure and maintenance needs.”
In July, The Washington Post reported that the Park Service was diverting almost $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees to help pay for Trump’s Independence Day extravaganza on the Mall, when the agency had almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance.
(The Mall itself has about $650 million in deferred maintenance.)
“This is a breach of trust with the public,” Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Association, said at the time. “The public pays parks fees to fix national parks and for educational programs, not the president’s parade.”
On Friday, Emily Douce, the association’s director of operations and park funding, said: “It’s great that the Washington Monument is reopening. The American population is glad to see that.
“However . . . if the Trump administration . . . [is] taking the glory for this, it’s really Rubenstein that should take the glory for this,” she said. “Thank him for his contribution.”
Alas, she said, “there’s not a lot of Rubensteins out there.”
Last year, the association, an advocate for national parks, criticized Trump for calling for cuts to the Park Service’s budget.
“The president’s budget . . . demonstrates that the administration is actively working to undermine our national parks and the environment on which they depend,” John Garder, a budget expert at the association, said of Trump’s 2019 budget proposal.
“National parks draw millions of visitors every year and need more resources, not less,” he said. “Choking off funding for staff who protect our national parks puts our country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage at risk.”
The monument’s reopening was scheduled for the spring but was delayed again because of the presence of possibly contaminated soil on the grounds.
The soil “is below the . . . surface and poses no risk to public health,” spokesman Litterst said at the time. But it potentially affected the screening center’s geothermal heating and cooling system, and had to be addressed.
“The soil in question was likely introduced in the 1880s as the monument was being completed,” he said.
One of the tallest free-standing masonry structures in the world, the monument is also perhaps the most recognized of American structures.
The monument’s cornerstone was laid July 4, 1848, at a ceremony attended by President James K. Polk and then-Rep. Abraham Lincoln. Work was halted from 1858 to 1878 because of a lack of funds.
In December 1884, a 3,300-pound marble capstone was placed atop the monument and capped with a pyramid of aluminum.
The following Feb. 21, on a sunny, frigid day, the monument was dedicated.
Even then, it was just the latest problem with a site that had a troubled history.
The original site, which was supposed to be on a north-south line with the White House and an east-west line with the Capitol, had to be moved because it was on unstable ground near the bank of the Potomac River, according to a study by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Thus, the current site is about 370 feet east of the White House axis and 123 feet south of the Capitol axis, the Corps said.
Later, the monument foundation had to be bolstered for fear it would not hold the weight of the structure.
And in 1887, a pond called Babcock Lake just north of the monument was filled in because it was seen as a threat to the stability of the monument.