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The Washington Monument reopens with a new visitor center

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Government Buildings

The Washington Monument reopens with a new visitor center

This is one of several landmark restoration projects underway in the nation’s capital.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | November 13, 2019

The addition of a new visitors' center marked the reopening of the Washington Monument after three years of renovation. Images: Alan Karchmer

The project, ostensibly, seems minuscule compared with the imposing structure to which it’s attached.

But the 1,000-sf Visitor Screening facility, an addition that opened in mid-September at the base of the 555.5-ft-tall Washington Monument, now plays an important role in setting a welcoming tone for the more than 800,000 people who visit the marble obelisk annually.

The new entrance, which cost $10.7 million to complete, was nearly 10 years in the making. In 2010, the National Park Service retained the architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BBB) to design the entrance and security for a Monument, whose dedication dates back to February 1885.

Hany Hassan, a Partner with BBB who managed the Washington Monument addition’s design process, has extensive experience in building and renovating historic structures, including The Smithsonian Institution, the Carnegie Library, the D.C. Courthouse, Planet World Museum, and the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.

Nevertheless, he called the visitor screen facility “the most daunting design challenge of my career,” primarily because that addition would fundamentally change one of the nation’s most prominent landmarks, both visually and experientially.

With that in mind, BBB designed this addition to include a geothermal heating and cooling system that allows the glass roof to remain clear so visitors have a full-height view of the Monument.

The new entrance gives visitors a stunning view of the Monument's height.

 

Grunley Construction, which is based in Washington D.C., was the GC on this project, which entailed demolishing an existing 450-sf visitor screening facility that was located against the Monument’s base. The new facility, made with heavy steel and a concrete foundation, has a custom glazed exterior envelope with ballistic and blast protections and a series of interior partitions equipped with security.

The Monument’s elevator also underwent repairs, upgrades, and systems modernization.

The new entrance marked the reopening of the Washington Monument to the public after a three-year renovation hiatus. Its reopening had been delayed for several months after “possibly contaminated” soil was discovered last April.

A view of the Monument's interior from the new entrance. The building's elevators were also modernized.

The next famous site in D.C. getting a facelift is the Jefferson Memorial. David Rubenstein, who cofounded Carlyle Group, has donated $10 million for upgrades, a rehabilitation of the Memorial’s 25-year-old exhibit space, and the creation of a new exhibit area at the main level near the 19-ft-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson, according to the Washington Post. The National Parks Service is already involved in an $8.2 million project to restore the landmark’s exterior. The Jefferson Memorial remains open during this work.

Last year, Rubenstein said he would donate $18.5 million toward a fund for overhauling the Lincoln Memorial, whose renovation and restoration are scheduled for completion in 2022 to coincide with its centennial. Rubenstein also kicked in $7.5 million to fix the Washington Monument after it had been damaged by an earthquake in 2011.

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