On a snowy Presidents’ Day holiday in Washington, D.C., journalists and members of the National Park Service trekked underground beneath one of the country’s most famous monuments.
Cartoons and graffiti drawn by workers nearly 100 years ago can still be seen on the pilings that anchor the Lincoln Memorial to its foundation at the west end of the National Mall.
Officials conducted the tour of the monument, built in honor of the 16th President of the United States, to highlight repairs and upgrades they say will be made possible by a multi-million dollar gift.
Representatives from the National Mall and Memorial Parks Service announced an $18.5 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who is the co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a private equity and financial asset management firm.
“Mr. Rubenstein’s donation will safeguard one of our most visited and recognizable memorials in the whole United States and preserve it for future generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said during the Presidents’ Day event.
The donation comes as the National Park Foundation launches an unprecedented $350 million fundraising campaign in conjunction with the National Parks Service’s 100th anniversary.
Officials say the money raised, in part, will fund projects at the regional and national level, including multiple exterior and interior repairs to the Lincoln Memorial.
“It needs a good scrub to brighten it back up and we need to add a second elevator for increased accessibility,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. He added that the restoration would also give visitors the opportunity to walk underneath the memorial.
Restoration efforts include repairs to cracks in the monument’s marble columns, as well as a roof replacement and cleaning of the murals along the interior walls. More than seven million people each year see the oversized marble statue of the Civil War-era President Lincoln, seated and apparently gazing on the visitors as they read the Gettysburg Address, inscribed on the monument's walls.
While repairs are expected to take place over the next four years, officials say the Lincoln Memorial will remain open throughout the renovation.
WATCH: A quick look at, and under, the memorial