Fireworks lit up Mount Vernon Place, the sound of choirs echoed off townhouses and laser lights illuminated the chilly air Thursday evening for the 40th annual lighting of Baltimore's Washington Monument.
"The fireworks this year were the best. They were really terrific," said Hunting Ridge resident Vicki Bringman, who has attended the event for more than a decade with her husband, Lew Bringman. "We couldn't see much other than kids' rear ends, up on their parents' shoulders, but it was wonderful."
A trip to the capital of Indiana inspired then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer to decree Christmas lights be draped from the monument 40 years ago.
"The Mayor said that in Indianapolis a number of statues and monuments are decorated by the city at Christmas time and that he had found it attractive," an article in The Baltimore Sun said the day after that first lighting on Dec. 13, 1972.
The first civic memorial to the first U.S. president has remained at the center of the celebration for four decades. But in June of last year, after the city received an engineering study commissioned by the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy that warned against letting people walk on the balcony at the top of the structure, the monument was closed to the public.
With preliminary approval from the city, the conservancy — also working to redesign and update all of Mount Vernon Place — is making it a priority to refurbish the structure before its bicentennial on July 4, 2015.The nonprofit has received several large grants for a "detailed structural investigation" of the monument, said Lance Humphries, the group's restoration committee chair. Once the study is complete, a full plan for the repairs will be submitted to the city for another approval before seeking a contractor to make the fixes.
The crowd at Thursday's monument lighting, filled with young children who have never been able to look out on Baltimore from one of the city's highest public venues, served as a reminder of the significance of the repairs.
"There are not that many people who actually make it all the way to the top," said Bringman, as she and her husband gazed up at the sculpture atop the pillar. "But it's a great view, just wonderful."
Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Gunts contributed to this article.
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