- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

Visitors coming to the District this summer to see famous landmarks will find some of them partially obscured by orange plastic fencing and construction equipment.

Those going to see the Marine Corps War Memorial, near the north gate of Arlington National Cemetery, and the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall also will see renovation work. Visitors to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Old Patent Office Building will contend with the sights and sounds of construction.

“The amount of visitors that we have here does take a toll, so there is really no best time to do major maintenance,” said Bill Line, a National Park Service spokesman. However, planners generally negotiate with contractors to stagger work on major attractions so that only sections of them are obstructed while work is under way, Mr. Line said.

The Marine Corps War and Lincoln memorials have been undergoing upgrades since last year.

At the Marine Corps War Memorial, the base and grounds surrounding the towering bronze statue of servicemen raising the flag over Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi is undergoing its most extensive rehabilitation since it was erected in 1954.

Work on the support structure, irrigation systems and walkways will cost $5.5 million and is scheduled to be complete by the fall.

“The memorial can be viewed — perhaps not as up close — but the grounds are open,” Mr. Line said.

At the Lincoln Memorial, the first traffic-enhancement project in more than four decades is almost complete.

The memorial is among the most popular monuments on the Mall, but its location near the Potomac River offers limited parking for tour buses and narrow, outdated walkways for pedestrians.

Park service officials say getting there on foot or by bus will be easier once the $5 million improvements are complete.

At the National Zoo, the $34 million Asia Trail exhibit is within six months of completion. The project started in April 2004 and will be the new home of the clouded leopards, giant pandas, giant salamanders, sloth bears and several other species native to the world’s largest continent.

The project has been difficult for zoo visitors to avoid. The cranes tower behind the enclosures in which 10-month-old Tai Shan and his parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, live in the zoo’s most popular attraction.

Many visitors said they looked forward to returning to see the new pits, moats and landscaped paddocks into which the animals will move this fall.

“Sometimes you have to suffer in the short term to get the best out of the long term,” said Debra Schrimsher, 55, of Orlando, Fla.

At the Smithsonian Institution, one major renovation project is almost finished and another is beginning.

A six-year renovation at the Old Patent Office Building, which has housed two Smithsonian museums since 1968, will be complete July 1. The building has been closed since 2000 for work that includes substantial restoration to its Greek Revival exterior.

The building was built between 1836 and 1867. Its stone facade required cleaning and repair, and upgrades were made to its interior systems, including elevators, 550 windows and the cooling, heating and electrical systems.

The Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery will reopen in the building. Some of their collections are on loan and are being displayed at other facilities.

The National Portrait Gallery will open 14 new exhibits from its collection of 20,000 paintings, prints and sculptures. The art museum will exhibit about 4,000 works, five times as many as it did in the past.

Visitors also will be able to see art preservation and restoration work firsthand in the new 10,200-square-foot Lunder Conservation Center.

“Museums are as much about preservation as display,” said Marc Pachter, director of the National Portrait Gallery.

A similar observable laboratory was the site of the restoration of the flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the National Museum of American History in recent years.

This fall, the 42-year-old building will close for 20 months for an $85 million rehabilitation.

The work will include construction of a new gallery for the famous relic from the 1814 shelling of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry.

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