WASHINGTON — After 32 months, the Washington Monument is finally pen again, after it suffered widespread damage in an August 2011 earthquake along the East Coast.
Since the 5.8 magnitude earthquake, the 130-year-old monument was covered in scaffolding to repair the more than 150 cracks in the 555-foot obelisk's white marble.
Last year, 488 lamps restored the monument's glow during its restoration as sensors lit the monument automatically each night at dusk.
Public tours of the Washington Monument begin at 1 p.m. on Monday.
Philanthropist David Rubenstein matched the $7.5 million in public funds allocated by Congress for the monument's restoration. In March, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a written statement, "We are grateful for David Rubenstein's generous donation that funded half of the $15 million repair bill."
Rubenstein told The Associated Press on Sunday that he was surprised how much the monument means to people who have written him letters and e-mail. He said he's pleased the job was done on time and on budget.
"It became clear to me that the Washington Monument symbolizes many things for our country — the freedoms, patriotism, George Washington, leadership," he said. "So it's been moving to see how many people are affected by it."
During an early look at the restored monument, Rubenstein hiked to the top, taking the stairs in a suit and tie. Memorial plaques inside the monument from each state seemed to be clean and intact, and the view "is really spectacular," he said.
The monument was built in two phases between 1848 and 1884. When it was completed, it was the world's tallest structure for five years until it was eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The monument remains the world's tallest freestanding stone structure.
Contributing: The Associated Press