Update: In August 2011, the Washington, D.C., region experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Video taken inside the Washington Monument during the quake shows it shaking violently. It was immediately clear that the structure had been damaged, as large cracks appeared.
The monument has been closed to public since the earthquake. The National Park Service studied the site for several months and found that while the monument remains structurally sound, there is extensive damage. The Park Service now expects the monument to remain closed to the public for at least two years while repairs are made. The repairs will dost an estimated $15 million dollars, to be covered by a combination of federal and private funds.
About the Monument
Everyone knows the Washington Monument–the 555-foot obelisk soaring above the National Mall in Washington, DC. And most people know that visitors to the Monument can get a wonderful 360-degree view of Washington, DC and its surroundings from the observation area at the top. But what's inside the REST of the Washington Monument–below the observation area–is one of Washington, DC's best-kept secrets.
Twice each day, when staffing allows, the Park Service gives walk-down tours. These tours are exactly what they sound like–visitors ride up to the observation area in the Monument's elevator, and then, with a Park Service guide, walk down to the ground.
Why would anyone want to walk down nearly 900 steps? The interior of the Monument is filled with nearly 200 memorial stones. These stones – in comes cases simple, in some cases intricately-carved works of art–were donated by states, cities, civic organizations, and even other nations, in memory of President Washington. Park rangers provide a detailed and fascinating history of the construction of the monument during the tour, as well as charming stories about individual stones.
It's a little hard on the knees, but definitely worth the effort!
--Laura Connors, NPCA