- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Washington Monument is set to be illuminated at sunset Monday, marking what National Park Service officials call a “milestone” in the three-year plan to repair earthquake damage to the famous structure.

Lights have continued to shine on the 555-foot obelisk despite its temporary closure nearly two years ago, but after Monday the monument will be lit in a new way made possible by the scaffolding and scrim that temporarily shroud it.

“The scrim will be illuminated from inside the scrim, making the Monument appear to glow in the dark,” the Park Service said. “The decorative blue-gray scrim is designed to preserve the general shape of the Monument and replicate its marble blocks.”

As the metal scaffolding twinkled in the midday sun Sunday, Mike Mosman, 62, set down his two kites and took a seat beneath a large umbrella.

Mr. Mosman, an engineer, is part of the Wings Over Washington Kite Club, which meets the first Sunday of every month on the western lawn of the monument.

Looking up at the towering structure, the sky-blue scrim rippling in the breeze, the Howard County, Md., resident said the Park Service had “spent a lot of money to make it look pretty.”

“But I recognize that this is our nation’s front yard,” he added. “We owe it to people who want to come and look at something that inspires them.”

The monument, dedicated 128 years ago, has been closed since August 2011, when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the East Coast, shaking loose mortar and small stones and cracking a portion of the angled part at the top of the monument, known as the pyramidion.

The Park Service put a price tag of $15 million to restore the monument, which is being paid for by a $7.5 million donation from philanthropist David M. Rubenstein and a matching federal grant. Within that cost is a $9.6 million work contract for repairs.

Officials have said the extent of the earthquake damage could have been worse had the monument not been restored from 1998 to 2000. During that project, the monument was also covered head to toe in scaffolding.

Paul LaMasters, another member of Wings Over Washington, said he remembers the first round of scaffolding.

“What are you gonna do,” he asked. “You’ve got to get it fixed.”

The 57-year-old Montgomery County resident said he’s used to fielding questions about the construction from passers-by, since the club members set up camp just on the other side of the chain link fence that surrounds the construction site.

Pausing along his stroll around the monument, Jason Rem said he didn’t mind the scaffolding because of its purpose.

“Something like this, you have to do it right and do it once,” said Mr. Rem, 44, who was in town from Los Angeles. “I can understand why it’s closed. First you have to come in and assess the impact.”

Work to fix the monument began the day of the quake, and over the past year has included a seismic study, elevator repair, weatherproofing and, perhaps most famously, the rappelling of a difficult-access team along the sheer face of the monument to assess the damage.

After hearing that she would miss the official illumination ceremony, Thaise Hygino, 29, groaned aloud.

“I might have to come back,” she said. The music production student spends her time between Orlando, Fla., and Boston and had come to the District to visit family.

Ms. Hygino, an amateur photographer, said she enjoyed taking photographs in the District because of the architecture.

“It’s majestic and there’s all this history, but it’s still modern,” she said.

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