Scaffolding Begins To Rise At Washington Monument - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Scaffolding Begins To Rise At Washington Monument

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Engineers rappel down the 555-foot Washington Monument in 2011 after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck less than 90 miles away, causing cracks in the structure. (AP Photo) Engineers rappel down the 555-foot Washington Monument in 2011 after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck less than 90 miles away, causing cracks in the structure. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Workers have started building scaffolding around the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument to make repairs to stonework damaged in a 2011 earthquake.

The scaffolding being built by workers was slowly rising from the base of the monument Thursday.

The National Park Service awarded a $9.6 million contract in September 2012 to begin repairing the monument. It will involve scaffolding around the entire monument, sealing cracks, repointing the mortar and strengthening weak spots.

The marble and granite obelisk has been closed to the public since a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region on August 23, 2011.

An inspection of the exterior was conducted by helicopter shortly after the quake. The upper portion of the monument sustained large cracks. Engineers discovered three or four "significant" cracks – one as long as four feet.

A December 2011 report raised concerns about standing water that could collect on the upper floors during storms as a result of the cracks. The report was prepared by the engineering firm whose employees rappelled down the sides of the monument after the earthquake to inspect the damage.

The total cost of the repairs was expected to be $15 million. Congress allocated $7.5 million to the National Parks System in late 2011, expecting a matching amount to be raised privately.

Billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein, a self-proclaimed history buff, announced in January 2012 he would donate the final $7.5 million to repair the stonework high up the obelisk.

Officials have said it will take four to five months to build the scaffolding.

The monument is the world's tallest stone structure and the tallest obelisk. Construction began in 1848. It was completed in 1884.

When the Washington Monument opened to the public it was the tallest structure in the world, but only held that distinction until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was finished in Paris, France.

(NewsChannel5 and The Associated Press.)

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