Continuing on with our day trip on Iron Mtn Road and our lunch break in Keystone, we headed back on Hwy 244 to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. If you are ever in the Rapid City, SD area, Mt Rushmore is just 23 miles down the road. The memorial features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (in order from left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Washington was selected for Mount Rushmore because he was the father of our country and represents our struggle for independence, our constitution and our liberty. Jefferson was to be honored on Mt. Rushmore as the author of the Declaration of Independence, representative government and for the expansion of our country through the Louisiana Purchase. Teddy Roosevelt, the third bust on Mount Rushmore was selected because he saw through the completion of the Panama Canal linking the oceans and opening the connecting waters of the East and the West. Lincoln was chosen for preserving the Union through one of America's darkest hours and for the ideals of freedom and equality for all. Five hundred feet up, they look out over a lovely setting of pine, spruce, birch, and aspen.
We arrived just in time to join an informative walk on the Presidential Trail with Ranger Ed. I have to tell you that he was one of the best Ranger/Guides that we've ever had the pleasure of listening to! I videotaped a portion of his talk but it's size was too large to post on this journal. So, I found a nice, short version on youtube if you care to view it. He leaves out the good stuff, like the police chasing Borglum through North Carolina, but it's still interesting.
During his talk we learned that historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, Robinson persuaded sculptor Gutzon Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to ensure that the carving could be accomplished. Borglum had been involved in sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving, a massive bas-relief memorial to Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain in Georgia, but was in disagreement with the officials there. Quite the interesting story...worked out great for South Dakota, since he decided to return to the hills!
The original plan was to perform the carvings in the granite pillars known as the Needles, however Borglum soon realized that the eroded Needles were too thin to support sculpting. Borglum selected Mount Rushmore as the final site for several reasons. The rock of the mountain is composed of smooth, fine-grained granite. The durable granite erodes only 1 inch every 10,000 years, indicating that it was sturdy enough to support sculpting. In addition, it was the tallest mountain in the region, looming to a height of 5,725 feet above sea level. Because the mountain faces the southeast, the workers also had the advantage of sunlight for most of the day. Borglum said upon seeing Mount Rushmore, "America will march along that skyline." Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission on March 3, 1925. President Coolidge insisted that along with Washington, two Republicans and one Democrat be portrayed.
Between October 4, 1927, and October 31, 1941, Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the colossal 60 foot high carvings of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. The image of Thomas Jefferson was originally intended to appear in the area at Washington's right, but after the work there was begun, the rock was found to be unsuitable, so the work on the Jefferson figure was dynamited, and a new figure was sculpted to Washington's left. And, originally it was planned that the figures would be carved from head to waist, but insufficient funding forced the carving to end. When Borglum died from an embolism in March 1941, his son Lincoln continued the project. The entire project cost $989,992.32 though it's now deemed priceless. Notable for a project of such size, no workers died during the carving.
In a canyon behind the carved faces is a chamber, cut only 70 feet into the rock, containing a vault with sixteen porcelain enamel panels. The panels include the text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents & Borglum, and the history of the U.S. The chamber was created as the entrance-way to a planned "Hall of Records" and the vault was installed in 1998.
The Sculptor's Studio — a display of unique plaster models and tools related to the sculpting — was built in 1939 under the direction of Borglum. Ten years of redevelopment work culminated with the completion of extensive visitor facilities and sidewalks in 1998, such as a Visitor Center, the Lincoln Borglum Museum, and the Presidential Trail. A 20 minute film narrated by the late Peter Jennings is shown in the museum. There are some very nice exhibits and photographs, as well as some of the equipment used to do the carving on display.
Maintenance of the memorial requires mountain climbers to monitor and seal cracks annually. Due to budget constraints, the memorial is not regularly cleaned to remove lichens. However, on July 8, 2005, Alfred Kärcher GmbH, a German manufacturer of pressure washing and steam cleaning machines, conducted a free cleanup operation that lasted several weeks, using pressurized water at over 200 °F (93 °C).
The U.S. National Park Service took control of the memorial in 1933, while it was still under construction, and manages the memorial to the present day. It attracts approximately three million people annually. There is no entrance fee to the memorial, however there is an $11 parking permit required good until the end of each year with unlimited return visits allowed. A great deal, as it's fun to see the memorial during the daylight hours & nice to return (during the summer months) for the evening lighting ceremony. If you get near the area, you really should make it a point to see this wonderful American landmark.
We'd had a pretty full day so decided to skip the lighting ceremony and head home for the evening. It was after 7pm when we hit the outskirts of town so we called in a quick order to Pizza Hut. Yep, one of the few 'chains' here in small town Custer. But they have darn good pizza, and wings too! Afterward we played Hand & Foot before Bonnie & Larry headed for their cabin and bed. The guys are going fishing in the morning & we're having a little campfire gathering for Marci's birthday in the evening. See you there...
P.S.I'm still a few posts behind in actual 'real time' but I'm getting there! I'll try to catch up in the next two day...Don't forget to check out the short video link below...Youtube Video Link