Baltimore's Washington Monument renovations ahead of schedule

The marble head and body of the George Washington Monument in Baltimore reemerged last week from the scaffolding that has ensconced it for nearly a year, and all exterior renovations are expected to wrap up this month.

The $5.5 million restoration project for the 178-foot obelisk in Mount Vernon is ahead of schedule, and entire building should be uncovered in time for the annual Monument Lighting in December, said Cathy Rosenbaum, of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy. Cranes will arrive this week to remove some of the heavier construction infrastructure. The monument, which has been closed to the public due to disrepair since 2010, will reopen with a ribbon-cutting and patriotic, colonial-themed celebration for its bicentennial on the Fourth of July in 2015, she said.

In addition to tours that will climb the 228 steps to the top for a panoramic view of the city, the Conservancy is working on a 10-minute virtual experience for those who are less fond of heights. The video, which will be viewable at the base of the monument and online, will include the sights from the top and historical information about it.

"We'll have the experience for people who don't want to climb to the top," Rosenbaum said.

She praised Lance Humphries, who chairs the Restoration Committee, and Lewis Contractors, which hired artisans to carefully replace aging pieces and scrub the mildew from the monument.

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