Monumental Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore national memorial

(Parks Folio usually will not approve posts that are not about a National Park or National Monument.  In light of the shutdown of the entire National Park Service and today’s reopening of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, we are allowing this submission…)

One of America’s greatest works of art, Mount Rushmore, had its beginning in 1923 when historian Doane Robinson asked noted sculptor Gutzon Borglumto to carve a tribute to America’s first 150 years into the side of a mountain. Borglum agreed and came to the Black Hills of South Dakota to scout out an acceptable site for his masterpiece. He chose the 5,725 feet peak of Mt. Rushmore, named for New York industrialist Charles E. Rushmore who had mining interests in the hills, and soon the project came to life.

In 1925 Congress authorized funds for the project, so in 1927 Borglum and four hundred workers began chipping away on the four sixty foot faces using everything from dynamite to tiny hand tools. In 1933 the National Park Service took control of the monument and by 1934 the first face, Washington’s, was finished and dedicated. Jefferson followed in 1936 and Lincoln in 1937.

There was some talk in congress of adding Susan B. Anthony’s likeness to the monument, but with limited funds Roosevelt’s face became the final one when it was dedicated in 1939. Work then came to a halt with Gutzon Borglum’s death and the beginning of World War II in 1941.

The main entrance leads up The Avenue of Flags to the museum and Grand View Terrace. The path is lined with tributes to every state and territory in the union, marking the date of their admission. As we proceeded under the flags, gazing up at the mountain, the grandeur of the sculpture really hit us. Photographs simply do not do it justice. The view from the Terrace truly is Grand (well named guys!) and the museum offers a fascinating look at the construction methods and history of the memorial.

Deciding we needed a closer look, we headed up the Presidential Trail that proceeds to the base of the faces. Well worth the climb, standing among the piles of fallen rock, cast-off from the carving, we were rewarded with views right up the nostrils of America’s greatest leaders. At the end of the trail we found The Sculptor’s Studio where Gutzon Borglum’s tools, drawings and clay model of his original concept depicting the presidents from the waist up are on display. The idea was probably overambitious and honestly, we think it fits in with the surrounding landscape better in the unfinished, smaller version.


  1. This is truly an ambitious undertaking. Can’t wait to see it for myself.

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