Destination Unknown Inside Mount Rushmore Tour Date: 11/14/2020
Tour Guide: Elizabeth Dougherty
This week, Elizabeth takes us inside the mysterious chamber hidden behind Abraham Lincoln’s head on Mount Rushmore.
Destination Unknown Inside Mount Rushmore Started in 1927, Gutzon Borglu
m’s original plan for Mount Rushmore called for the full-length standing images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. The mountain itself didn’t lend itself to such a huge undertaking so Borglum focused instead on the four faces. Borglum was convinced that carving the images into the mountain wasn’t enough. As a first-generation American who loved this country, he wanted succeeding generations (and even space travelers in the future) to understand the importance of our nation’s founding as well as full descriptions of those four presidents.
His plans called for an 800 foot staircase leading to a massive “Hall of Records.” The great hall would have included a carved display of The US Constitution and Bill of Rights and excavation was done simultaneously as the faces were carved. By 1937 however, the federal government, deep in debt from the Great Depression, decided to backed away from Borglum’s original plan.
Borglum died in 1941 and his son Lincoln Borglum completed the scaled back Mount Rushmore project that we see today. For decades, the massive chamber remained empty. The Borglum family asked the government to allow the completion of Gutzon Borglum’s “Hall of Records” and finally, in 1998, the feds finally installed several porcelain tablets describing Mount Rushmore’s history. Though closed to the general public, a tablet inside the Hall of Records includes a quote from Borglum himself:
“… let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.”
For safety concerns, Borglum’s Hall of Records is closed to the public.
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