With the flick of a switch, things got a little brighter on the National Mall tonight.
At dusk the National Park Service officially lit up the Washington Monument, which has been fully encased in aluminum scaffolding since May.
It’s part of the multi-million dollar repair job needed after the East Coast earthquake of August 2011, which caused significant damage to a number of D.C. landmarks – including our city’s first and most visible monument.
For me, it’s a bit of a flashback to when I first moved to the District back in 2000. The Washington Monument had just gone through a major restoration – and for the duration of repairs, it was transformed by a blue, semi-transparent fabric stretched over its scaffolding and lit from behind.
This temporary aesthetic fix was designed by architect Michael Graves, and gave this most traditional of monuments a decidedly new
look – both futuristic and retro at the same time. And kind of cubist.
Now they’ve brought that same design back as they repair cracks and chips in the stone and mortar caused by the 5.8 magnitude quake.
The scaffolding went up bit by bit starting in February, and the fabric and lighting were put into place last month. But it was tonight that the 488 lamps placed along the length of the monument were lit for the first time.
The lamps will turn on automatically at dusk each evening, shedding a bit more light on the Mall and the city’s skyline until the repairs are done early next year.
The Washington Monument has undergone major restoration and cleaning two other times since it was completed in 1888 – first during 1934-35 as part of a New Deal project, and then again in 1964.
The scaffolding from this current repair job will come down next spring, and the Washington Monument will once again open to tourists brave enough to take the elevator 555 feet up to experience D.C.’s premier, panoramic view.
In the meantime, the more interesting view will be from the outside. Try to make it down to the Mall at night to enjoy the new look – or check out the illumination on this live webcam.