July 29, 2014

7/28/14 - Mount Rushmore NM

Absolutely everyone knows about Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  Right up there with the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, it's an American icon.  They might not be able to name all four Presidents, or know that it's in South Dakota but they know it's a symbol of the United States.  And a mighty big one at that!

Once we'd paid the parking fee and wound our way up the parking ramp, we headed toward the Memorial, with approximately 30,000 other tourists who happened to be in the Black Hills that day.  Inside was like Disneyland.
After checking into the Info Center and Bookstore for the Passport Stamps, we headed the court and down (up?) the Avenue of Flags.  We've seen this before--all the flags of US states and territories line the walkway as a memorial--and it's always impressive.  We gravitate to Washington, of course.  I guess we want to confirm they used the right flag or got the date it was admitted to statehood right.

Grandview Terrace has another gateway that frames the memorial (and the tourists), then a wide-open area where you can look straight out to it, with an amphitheater down below where we were standing.  I think that's where people sit when they stay for the evening lighting ceremony.
There's only so many photos you can take of even something as great as this.  Let's see...the four faces; the 4 of them with me; all of us together; the Presidents with George.  (They don't ever move, do they?)


Downstairs is the Visitor Center, theater, and museum.  We saw the movie first (we always do), then went through the museum.  We learned a lot about Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, and how the sculpture was created.  They didn't plan to do President's initially, but Borglum talked them into it rather than the western heroes, and chose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of US history.  I really do think that's better than Buffalo Bill.
You've got to admit that Gutzon Borglum is a unique name.  I thought it sounded familiar, but in the video they talked about his "previous project".  I found out later that he'd been the original sculptor at Stone Mountain in Georgia (yes, I have a blog entry for it), but not only did he get mad and leave, but they blasted all his work away when they hired his replacement.  Tempermental artists...
Some of the early plaster casts only showed 3 Presidents, and it included their upper bodies and arms.  Looks really strange.

In the Sculptor's Studio is a scale model of the sculpture, as well as plaster casts they used to get the measurements right.  There's a definite trick to enlarging something to fit on a mountain.  I think they may have mentioned it in geometry class, but it's been a very long time, and I don't remember.  (Please note this is NOT a short-term memory issue, although it may be selective.)
Construction began in 1927 and continued for 14 years.  The work was done by Borglum and 400 workers (one was his son Lincoln).  Ninety per cent of the sculpture was done with dynamite--not something found in most sculptors' bag of tools.  Actually, although not completed, it's done--Congress said the money needed to go to the war effort and declared it finished in 1941.  (Borglum had died a few months earlier.) We're done too--this is the last picture I took on the way out.
Still want to see more?  Click here:  Mount Rushmore NM 

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