To look at the four presidents carved into the mountainside of Mount Rushmore my first thought was that these were good choices to immortalize. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt were men of their times who chose to look into the future and envisioned a stronger nation and moved the country in that direction.
Past the entrance is the outdoor amphitheater. From the amphitheater we turned left and walked down a path toward the Presidents which took us to the base of the mountain. The trail is not so much of a trail as a wooden walkway. Level and sturdy, the walkway winds across the front of the mountain for about two thirds of a mile. The trail contains 422 steps and is interspersed with interpretive panels about the presidents. The panels are situated where there is the best view of the president’s face on the respective panel.
Our day was perfect. The temperature was about 70. The sky was crystal clear blue with a few floating clouds and just enough breeze to be cooling. There were just enough people there to share the experience, but not so many that the crowd became unbearable.
I know from now on, each time I go back it will always be a fresh and renewing experience.
Information about the Mount Rushmore Memorial is available from multiple sources. The following background data came from a short talk given by a ranger a the site and Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rushmore
The project, as conceived by South Dakota Historian Doanne Robinson was to create something in South Dakota, which would make the state a destination. She thought western heroes would be the best draw. She contacted Gutzon Borglum to design the sculptures.
Borglum was currently working on a project in Georgia at Stone Mountain sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving of confederate leaders. At Robinson’s request he traveled to the Black Hills, surveyed the project and decided the granite was not sound enough to hold the carvings and returned to Georgia. In Georgia he quarreled with the officials overseeing the Confederate Memorial Carving, which eventually lead to Borglum destroying the sculpture model. He escaped into North Carolina just ahead of a posse sent to arrest him for destroying the model.
Returning to the Black Hills, Borglum changed the concept from western heroes to the four presidents and selected Mount Rushmore for the site.
Congress approved the initial funding in March 1925. Washington had already been selected as one of the Presidents. President Coolidge wanted two more Republicans and Democrat.
Borglum selected Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln for their efforts to preserve the United States and expanding its territory and influence.
Over the next fourteen years, 400 workers toiled using dynamite and a drilling process known as honeycombing. Honeycombing is where small holes are drill close together which allows the stone to be flacked away with small dynamite charges.
The face of Washington was completed and dedicated in 1934. Jefferson was dedicated in 1936, Lincoln in 1937 and Roosevelt in 1939. A bill to provide funding to complete the project was passed in in 1937. The bill included provisions to add the face of Susan B. Anthony to the project, but a rider on the bill stated that only funding would be provided to complete those sculptures already in process. The scope of the sculptures was reduced from half bodies to just the President’s faces and Susan B. Anthony was never started.
The Borglum died in 1941 and his son Lincoln took over as leader until October 1941 when the project ended for lack of funding.