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Cracks Fixed Atop Washington Monument

Friday, May 23, 2014

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An extensive, 33-month long, $15 million repair program to mend cracks and chips atop the Washington Monument has been completed.

The 130-year-old stone monument, which sustained the damage during the earthquake that rattled the eastern U.S. in 2011, reopened to visitors May 12, according to the National Park Service.

before and after
Images: National Park Service

More than 150 cracks in the Washington Monument were repaired during the restoration project.

The 555-foot-tall icon, designed by architect Robert Mills, was heavily damaged in the quake Aug. 23, 2011. A  dramatic National Park Service video shows chunks of mortar and limestone raining down on visitors when the 5.8 magnitude quake rocked the structure. (The quake begins at about 1:45 in the video.)

Built in 1884, the national landmark honors the first U.S. President, who served from 1789 to 1797. The monument was the world's tallest manmade structure until the Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1889.

3-Year Process

The Pyramidion (point top), between elevations 475 and 530 feet, sustained most of the damage, assessments found.

After the monument was closed, engineers from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. (WJE) investigated the damage, painstakingly examining more than 20,000 stones.

repair assessment

Engineers from WJE rapelled down the Washington Monument to conduct an exterior assessment of the damage caused by the August 2011 earthquake.

This report provided a look at the high-wire investigation conducted in late September and early October of 2011.

Once a plan for repairs was secured, it took almost 20 months to design and build the scaffolding to provide workers access to the stonework, reports said.

Crews began work last May, removing loose stone fragments from the interior and exterior, repairing more than 150 cracks, replacing missing pieces, and sealing rainwater leaks throughout the structure.

The team also performed a low-pressure wash of the stonework, according to reports.

Sylmar, CA-based Tutor Perini Management Services Group led the repair program, finishing on time and on budget, according to the National Park Service.

workers
Photo by Colin Winterbottom / Courtesy of NPS

Crews used Dutchman repairs on the structure. Additional restoration photos are available here.

The contractor was joined by Maryland-based Grunley Construction, Virginia’s Lorton Stone, and Universal Builder’s Supply of New York, reports said.

Philanthropist Pays Half

The repair bill was $15 million. Half of the cost was donated by philanthropist David Rubenstein via the Trust for the National Mall.

The other half was provided by government funding.

Washington Monument historic photo

Built in 1884, the national landmark honors the first U.S. President, who served from 1789 to 1797. The monument was the world's tallest manmade structure until the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889.

“David’s support of the national parks and the work of the National Park Service sets a high standard for park philanthropy nationwide and is appreciated by every visitor who will learn something about President Washington or simply enjoy the view from the top,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement.

The monument draws about 700,000 visitors a year.

   

Tagged categories: Disasters; Monuments; Rehabilitation/Repair; Repair materials; Stone

Comment from Gerald Curtis, (5/23/2014, 10:06 AM)

The Monument’s repair effort is a testimony to the evaluation and design expertise of WJE and the construction knowledge provided by Tutor Perini. Would that the damage sustained by the Washington Cathedral have been more transparently explained and responsibility assigned for the extent of cause of its damage.


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