Washington Monument Reopens

Members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps arrive for the re-opening ceremony of the Washington Monument in Washington, May 12, 2014. The monument, long a landmark on the U.S. capital's skyline, reopened on Monday after being closed for repairs for almost three years after it was damaged in a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August 2011.
Members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps arrive for the re-opening ceremony of the Washington Monument in Washington, May 12, 2014. The monument, long a landmark on the U.S. capital’s skyline, reopened on Monday after being closed for repairs for almost three years after it was damaged in a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August 2011. ( REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The 130-year-old Washington Monument  reopened Monday for the first time in 33 months. In 2011,  an earthquake caused widespread damage to it.

Engineers have conducted extensive restoration of the 555-foot stone obelisk that was once the tallest structure in the world. They sealed leaks where rainwater got in and repaired more than 150 cracks.

The monument’s white marble and mortar were cracked and shaken loose during the 5.8-magnitude earthquake. Some of the worst vibrations were at the top.  Debris fell inside and outside the monument, and visitors scrambled to get away. Later, engineers evaluated the damage by rappelling from the top, dangling from ropes.

Now new exhibits have been installed. Visitors can once again ride an elevator to look out from the highest point in the U.S. capital.

The full restoration cost $15 million. Mr. David Rubenstein, a billionaire businessman who supports many causes, contributed $7.5 million to pay half the cost and expedite the repairs. He described the view from the top as “ really spectacular.”

The monument was originally built in two stages, between 1848 and 1884. It was the world’s tallest structure for five years until it was eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Washington Monument remains the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure, however.

About 700,000 people visit per year.