The Iconic Sculpture in the South
Every year more than 3 million people take a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore. The giant statues in the mountain of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln represent the triumphs and tribulations that the United States has gone through.
History of Mount Rushmore
Known as the “Father of Mount Rushmore”, Doane Robinson was the man behind the idea to create the enormous carvings in the mountain in 1923. The main goal behind this was to have a landmark that would attract tourism to his home state. In 1924, Robinson contacted Gutzon Borglum, a well-known sculptor. Borglum was known for his work with the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain so it made sense to contact an artist who had experience working on large-scale sculptures.
In 1925, Congress approved the construction on Mount Rushmore. The original plan was to sculpt famous people or major events in history. In the end, they decided to carve the four presidents that can be seen today.
Why These Presidents?
Borglum selected those 4 presidents out of 29 previous presidents at the time because of what they symbolized. George Washington represented the birth of the country, Jefferson represented growth, Roosevelt represented the development, and Abe represented the preservation of the union.
The Controversy of the Location
There was controversy about the location at Mount Rushmore. Since construction was going to permanently change the geology of the area, many Native American tribes were going to be uprooted.
Since the government had already claimed the area as a National Park, there wasn’t much the Native Americans could do but many of them still perform rituals on the land. There is also talk about compensating these tribes for the land that was taken from them.
Borglum the Builder
You’ve heard of Bob the Builder but it seems more appropriate to call him Borglum the Builder. In 1927 Borglum hired 499 workers to start working on the mountain. This project was like Borglum’s child. He wanted it to be perfect and his best work.
He had huge plans for the monument. Originally it was going to have a map of the Louisiana Purchase and more than just four presidents. So what happened? Funding. What Borglum wanted to do was extremely out of the budget and was denied.
Borglum Had His Own Plans
The construction of the faces proceeded without any major complications while Gutzon began working on his own secret addition. In 1938 the US Government allowed Borglum to add a 70-foot tunnel behind Abraham Lincoln’s head. The tunnel was going to lead to “The Hall of Records at Mount Rushmore”.
The Hall of Records was going to hold some of America’s most important documents. Basically a giant time capsule. Construction of the hall was paused when Borglum died in 1941. Construction of the face continued.
A Monument is Completed in 1941
On October 31, 1941, all four faces on Mount Rushmore were completed. The project was done. An interesting fact is that during the whole construction process there was not a single death.
But what happened to the Hall of Records? Well, it was completed on a much smaller scale than Borglum wanted a few years after the faces were completed.
Maintaining the Mount
Since it was constructed so long ago, there is constant work being done to maintain the mountain. The original sealant that they used turned out to not be waterproof. The National Parks staff began to remove the old sealant and replaced it with silicone.
In the 1980’s the park started becoming more tourist friendly by building sidewalks and other facilities to make the visiting experience better.