The iconic Washington Monument, typically receiving over a million visitors a year, has been closed to the public since a 5.8 magnitude quake on August 23rd of last year. Following an extensive damage assessment, the National Park Service estimated that $15 million would be needed for repairs to the structure, including cracked marble, water damage, and reinforced foundations.
In December, Congress allocated half of the funds for the repair project, asking for private donations to cover the rest of the expenses. Billionaire businessman and history-buff David Rubenstein recently donated the other $7.5 million, which will be made out to the Trust for the National Mall, a non-profit group working to restore wear and tear along the heavily-trafficked National Mall. Rubenstein’s donation is the largest contribution to date.
The East Coast quake responsible for the damage to the obelisk was felt from Canada to Georgia, and originated in nearby Richmond, VA. Though visitors managed to escape safely from the Monument, crews found cracks as long as four feet and more than an inch wide in some places.
Rubenstein is the cofounder of the Carlyle Group, an enormously successful private equity firm operating for the last 25 years. "I don't think I want to be buried with my wealth," said Rubenstein. "I want the pleasure of giving it away while I'm alive.” His previous contributions include funds for the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and the Kennedy Center.
The repair work could take up to two years, but has been delayed over inadequate funding. With Rubenstein’s contribution, work should begin immediately. “The Washington Monument is probably one of the most recognizable buildings in the United States next to the Capitol and the Empire State Building… I wanted people to get to see it as soon as possible,” adds Rubenstein.