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The Washington Monument reopens with a few scars

Monday - 5/12/2014, 9:41am  ET

MONUMENTAL.JPG
The Washington Monument is scaffolding-free and ready to open to the public after more than two years of repairs. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
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About 16,000 tickets for Washington Monument visit sold in 15 minutes

WTOP's Nick Iannelli report.

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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Monument has finally shed its scaffolding and will reopen to the public Monday for the first time in two years. There are new cracks, secures and an entirely new exhibit for visitors to see.

The National Park Service is hosting a reopening ceremony and plan to open the monument to the public at 10 a.m. at the southwest grounds of the Washington Monument.

It will be the first time visitors have had access to the monument since Aug. 23, 2011, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage to the structure and forced its closure.

"In my entire career I've never worked on something so magnificent and historical on something like the Washington Monument," says project manager Bob Collie.

Leaning near the East window, Collie knows every square-inch of the Washington Monument. He oversaw its restoration after the 2011 earthquake caused structural damage. While the patches to the outside are out of eyesight - above 450 feet - he says there are noticeable changes inside.

"We did about 12,000 feet of border repointing primarily on the exterior of the building," Collie says.

"We did about 1,100 feet of motor patches. We did over 100 dutchman repairs and 5 to 600 feet of epoxy injections in addition to over 50 these very complicated saddle anchors."

The saddle anchors, stainless steel brackets that hold the exterior panels to the ribs, are visible on the observation deck. The anchors stabilize the obelisk for any future seismic event.

But, he says, the repairs are not meant to draw attention.

"One of the goals was don't do any more damage, which we didn't," Collie adds. "The masons took extreme caution and care to not harm the existing parent stone. That was a foremost concern."

"We've had phenomenal interest," says Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

"People have followed the progress and wanted to watch the scaffolding come up and come down, and we have a whole level of excitement."

He shows off the monument's new exhibit located 10-feet below the observation deck which chronicles its past and more recent history.

"Many Washingtonians who have never been up here, shamefully I might add, are now saying, 'Well, maybe now we should come up and see it,'" Vogel says.

Before it closed for repairs, the monument got 800,000 visitors a year. Vogel expects the next few weeks will be busy.

Between the North and East window in the stairwell down to the exhibit, visitors will notice one of the largest patched cracks, that James Perry, chief of resources management for the park, says cut straight through the stone during the earthquake.

It is one of many new marks for the expert on the monument to learn. Ones Perry says only add to its character.

"The Washington Monument is not a work of art, but a historic building. So it has a certain character and a certain quality, and that stone that's been weathering for more than 100 years -- stone that's been patched and chipped and cracked and hit by lightening," Perry says. "So it's not meant to be pristine. It's meant to maintain that character."

The monument's reopening ceremony will be held Monday morning.

NBC TODAY show meterologist Al Roker will serve as master of ceremonies, and will also be joined by American Idol Season 12 winner Candice Glover, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, the United States Navy Band and the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir.

It is open to the public starting at 10 a.m. Monday, May 12. The first tour will be at 1 p.m.

Tickets are required and will be available on a first-come, first- served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street, between Madison and Jefferson Drives, according to the National Parks website.

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