More than 2 years since the Washington Monument was damaged by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake, the popular tourist site is reopening to the public Monday — stronger than ever after $15 million worth of repairs.
"The repairs that were done will outlive the monument probably," said Bob Collie, project manager for Perini Management Service Inc., which handled the job. "The only unknown is a future event, a future earthquake. The repairs we did should last a lifetime."
The monument is scheduled to reopen officially to the public 1 p.m. Monday, after a ceremony attended by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, "Today" show anchor Al Roker, and a host of local leaders.
Mr. Collie said that, in a career of more than 35 years, "nothing comes close to being to work on the Washington Monument."
"This project was second to none," he said. "It's bittersweet when it comes to the end. It's just so overwhelming. When you look at it from afar, you never realize the magnitude, the size, the height."
Weighing 90,000 tons and standing 555 feet tall, the monument has stood sentry in the middle of the Mall since it opened in 1885.
More than a half-million people annually visit the granite obelisk, many of them climbing to the top of the structure to get unrivaled views of the city.
When an earthquake struck the East Coast in August 2011, Park Service officials immediately closed the monument, which displayed large cracks and saw some stone and mortar shake loose. Work began to fix it the day of the quake.
The most obvious repairs can be seen at the observation-deck level, where 53 "saddle anchors" were placed between the exterior stones on the slanted pyramidion near the top of the monument.
After the earthquake, the repair team realized the stones should have more support so that they don't slide or get shoved out of position.
Plates and bolts now join the angled stones that prior to the earthquake were simply held together by gravity.
The entire project included 2.7 miles worth of mortar joints, 132 Dutchman repairs, hundreds of mortar patches, elevator repair and weatherproofing of the monument.
A large, thick metal bar also supports the 4-foot crack on the western side of the pyramidion, one of the largest sites of exterior damages caused by the quake.
Mr. Collie said about 90 percent of the repairs were exterior.
To reach the exterior portions of the monument, scaffolding was built around the structure. Park Service officials ordered the same kind of scaffolding used during a restoration project in 1999, which combined lighting and draping to give the structure a luminescent appearance at night.
The work included a seismic study to determine whether the monument was still structurally sound and the rappelling of a difficult-access team along the sheer face of the monument to assess the damage.
Mr. Collie said that during the work crews discovered some of the original eye bolts used during the building of the monument back in the 19th century. The bolts, which resemble a lowercase "i," were used for the rigging that hoisted the enormous marble stones into place.
The marble stones for the repairs were sourced from Maryland, said James Perry, chief of resource management for the Park Service, including some salvaged from other projects, such as a roughly 2-foot long block that was once a step at a Baltimore row house.
Officials said the extent of the earthquake damage could have been worse had the monument not been restored from 1998 to 2000.
"It was the most damage to the monument from a single event," Mr. Perry said. "We literally went stone by stone surveying. Now we've got a wonderful road map of the condition of the monument."
Tickets for monument tours can be obtained at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street Northwest between Madison and Jefferson drives. Same-day tickets are free, and advance ticket reservations can be made online for a fee.
Park Service officials said advance tickets are sold out for several weeks, but walk-up tickets are set aside each day. Those are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
© Copyright 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.