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Construction Crews Will Greet Washington Tourists

April 25, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Tourists be warned. Visitors to the nation’s capital might have to dodge scaffolding, construction crews and jackhammers as they tour historic sites for the next several summers.

The Jefferson and Lincoln memorials are under restoration, and surveying work is getting under way on the Washington Monument.

``Hooray for all of us!″ said Roger G. Kennedy, director of the National Park Service. ``These places belong to us, so when there’s work being done on them all the time, hooray for us!″

Officials announced Thursday that the Washington Monument will join Washington’s other major sites in renovation.

And it won’t be over until the turn of the century.

``The Washington Monument is our first and oldest and greatest patriotic shrine,″ Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said Thursday. ``Our first patriotic shrine is going to be surrounded by the tallest scaffold in the city″ _ ladders climbing 555 feet.

It will look a lot like the scaffolding that surrounds the Gettysburg Address chipped into the Lincoln Memorial _ only taller. And much taller than the 21 feet of scaffolding that circled Thomas Jefferson until this week.

Tourists don’t seem to mind. In fact, visitors to the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday uniformly praised the Park Service for working to preserve the nation’s history.

``I’m very pleased to see that they are making sure this is preserved forever,″ said Melinda Brent of Bensenville, Ill.

Ten-year-old Kristy Tozer of Newark Valley, N.Y., saw a downside as she surveyed the work area that dominates the south side of the entrance.

``It’s blocking Lincoln’s view of the reflecting pool,″ she said.

Work at the Jefferson and Lincoln began in 1992. At the Jefferson, the repointing of the interior stone is complete, though workers still have to replace the roof, the steps and an irrigation system below the grass.

Then they’ll move onto the volutes _ otherwise known as ``those curly things at the top of the columns,″ explained Keith Newlin, assistant chief of maintenance. It seems one of these volutes _ measuring six feet by six feet of solid stone _ came tumbling down a few years ago.

At the Lincoln, a large renovation area greets visitors, shutting off half the entrance walkway. Meanwhile, murals on the memorial’s inner walls are covered with scaffolding to allow a micro-crystalline wax to be injected into the paintings to help preserve them.

Plans also call for replacing bathrooms, updating the visitors’ center and surveying the stone to determine which pieces need to be repaired.

Total cost for the Jefferson and Lincoln: $20 million, all courtesy of the U.S. Treasury.

Much of the Washington Monument restoration comes from the Target discount chain, which is donating $1 million and working to raise $4 million more in private money. It’s part of a new push for private-public partnerships in the National Park Service, Babbitt said.

And in exchange, can we expect a large Target bulls-eye symbol painted at the top of the monument?

``Not even a small target,″ Kennedy said.

The restoration is expected to cost an additional $10 million of public money, depending on what the Park Service can squeeze out of Congress, said Arnold Goldstein, superintendent of National Park Service for Monuments and Memorials.

When its done, the Washington Monument will have its cracks sealed, new cement between each of its 36,000 stones, a new air conditioning and heating system, a new elevator and enhanced outside lighting.

All three renovations should be complete by 2000.

Tourists to the nation’s capital appear to be taking the inconvenience in stride.

``It’s better than not doing it and have it fall into disrepair and look like the center of New York City or something,″ agreed Steve Weiner of Orange, Conn. ``Most people understand what they’re trying to do.″

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