The Washington Monument -- one of the District's most popular tourist attractions -- will be closed for nearly two years because of earthquake damage, if the National Park Service's estimates prove to be correct.

Work on exterior damage isn't expected to begin until August and will take 10 to 12 months, according to Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

That means the monument, which typically draws 1 million visitors each year, would be reopening about two years after the 5.8-magnitude quake struck the Washington region on Aug. 23. The temblor caused extensive cracks and chipping in its pyramidion, the heavy top.

Vogel said NPS has already awarded a contract for the design of the repairs to the 127-year-old landmark, and they hope to award a contract for permanent repairs to the elevator inside the structure in a week. Damage to the elevator's counterweight frame must be repaired before work on the exterior damage can begin.

"Our hope is to get it back open as quickly as possible," said NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis.

Vogel said NPS does not know yet if the project will require scaffolding.

"This is a complex job," he said. "This is a one-of-a-kind structure that poses challenges for repair that other buildings don't."

Examiner Archives
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  • Vogel acknowledged that NPS did not know what future visitors to the monument could expect to see once repairs begin.

    "But please rest assured that the National Park Service will get it right," Vogel said.

    An engineering firm estimated total restoration costs at $15 million in September. Congress allocated only half of that sum in a December spending bill, forcing the NPS to seek private donors for the remaining $7.5 million.

    David Rubenstein, co-founder of D.C.-based global asset management firm Carlyle Group, stepped forward with the funds, it was announced Thursday.