The Washington Monument reopens today, Monday, after a three-year repair project prompted by earthquake damage. The ceremonies began at 10 AM, with the first public tour at 1 PM. The first lucky visitors to the top were chosen on a first come, first served basis, with tickets handed out at the site starting at 8:30 AM.
After the grand reopening ceremony on Monday, the monument will follow a daily tickets-only tour routine with tickets available at the site beginning at 8:30 AM, or reserved in advance online. Individuals may request a maximum of six tickets. The National Park Service says the tour of the monument lasts about an hour. The NPS also said an estimated 700,000 people visit the monument each year. Visitors will notice a “refreshed” look and new exhibits.
The monument was damaged with dozens of cracks when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Washington in August 2011. David Rubenstein, a founding member of the Carlyle Group and a Washington philanthropist, gave $7.5 million to the $15 million repair project. Congress paid the other half. According to WUSA-TV, Rubenstein earlier toured the repaired monument, opting to hike up the 897 stairs—climbing 500 feet—rather than ride the elevator. The stairs are not open to the public, however. The elevator ride takes slightly more than a minute to reach the top.
The memorial to the first president and Revolutionary War general, George Washington, took several years due to design controversy, funding issues, and the Civil War, but was eventually dedicated and opened in 1885. Caroline Cunningham, president of the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, a cohost of the reopening ceremonies, called the monument a “beacon” to Americans.