WASHINGTON -- Night may be the best time to see the Washington
Monument this summer and fall as work continues on a 14-month
exterior renovation project that is expected to last until next
In the daytime, the view of the 550-foot obelisk is obscured by
sky-blue architectural mesh and a framework of aluminum
But at night, the custom-designed framework, fitted with 500
lights, shines upon the monument's marble exterior, and the
monolith emerges from its shroud. This is how the capital's most
prominent landmark will look at the end of this century as it
enters the new millennium.
The National Park Service has targeted July 4, 2000, as the
completion date for the monument's exterior renovation, according
to Earle Kittleman, a Park Service spokesman.
The exterior work, the second phase of a three-phase project, is
by far the most extensive. It constitutes a $6 million effort that
has had workers going over every square inch of marble since May,
sealing the stone to stop moisture from migrating into the
interior, Kittleman said.
The project to restore the Washington Monument began early last
year as a partnership between the National Park Service and
Minneapolis-based Target Stores, according to Kittleman.
Target brought in corporate partners -- Discovery Communications
Inc., Kodak, 3M, Visa USA, Coca-Cola and General Electric -- that
provided all the lighting free. Together, the corporate sponsors
put up $5 million. Congress appropriated $1 million.
Phase 1, now completed, accomplished the renovation of the
elevator and the heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems.
Phase 3 involves renovating the observation deck, which occupies
the top 50 feet of the monument.
Meanwhile, the monument remains open to visitors, Kittleman
said. "We're still allowing people to go inside, take the elevator
to the top and look out the windows," he said, "but they will see
There will be times, though, when the monument will have to be
closed, Kittleman noted. "That's one of the reasons we have the
interpretive center," he said. The Washington Monument Interpretive
Center is housed in two temporary, one-story, modular structures on
the monument grounds, near the corner of Constitution Avenue and
Billed as an interactive center focusing on Washington -- "the
man, the city and the monument" -- the interpretive center was the
creation of the Discovery Channel, which also wanted to help
explain to visitors the very visible restoration project.
The inside of the center features exhibits, videos, touch-screen
interactives and graphic displays, but Kittleman finds the outside
interesting, as well, in its very unobtrusiveness. "It's very
clever," he said. "It's very light on the landscape.
"It has a blue awning over it to keep off the elements and keep
it cool. It's not flamboyant." Visitors can reserve their free
tickets to enter the monument at a kiosk on 15th Street about 50
yards from the interpretive center. The line for the monument
queues up outside the back door of the center.
Travelers also can reserve tickets through TicketMaster at (800)
505-5040. There is a $1.50 convenience charge per ticket and a
50-cent handling charge per order.