The Iconic American Landmarks That Almost Weren’t

A monumental moment

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In 1783, before Washington was elected our first president, Congress already had plans to erect a statue of the war hero. After he went from army commander-in-chief to POTUS, however, Washington stopped progress on the structure due to low public funds. Almost 100 years later and after a collection of private donations, architect Robert Mills won a design competition to construct and complete the Washington Monument. History describes his original design as a grandiose contrast to the finished product. "The winning design called for a pantheon, a temple-like building, featuring 30 stone columns and statues of Declaration of Independence signers and Revolutionary War heroes. A statue of Washington driving a horse-drawn chariot would reside above the main entrance and a 600-foot-tall Egyptian obelisk would rise from the pantheon's center." As beautiful and bold the idea sounded at the time, the project went through another building phase and in a different direction. Ultimately, it was Ulysses S. Grant, our 21st president, who raised federal funds and put the finishing touches on one of the world's tallest man-made structures at that time. We've never really thought about cleaning some of these American landmarks, but get a look at how the world's biggest monuments are cleaned.

A hidden time capsule

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Before Mount Rushmore's master sculptor, Gutzom Burglon, passed away, he was carving out a secret room to store sensitive historical documents. According to National Parks Traveler, "Borglum's original plan was revised a bit, but the intent remained, and in 1998, tablets with the story of our nation were sealed in a vault in the unfinished Hall of Records. Sixteen porcelain enamel panels containing the text from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, along with a biography of Borglum and the story of the presidents, were sealed in a teakwood box, then placed in a titanium vault, and finally sealed shut." The top secret door is rumored to sit behind Abraham Lincoln's head. Mount Rushmore is positively dreamy in the snow—so are these stunning photos of landmarks covered in snow.

Different spaces, different faces

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Our Founding Fathers' faces were not everyone's first choice to be carved into the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Historian Dove Robinson wanted to lure tourists to the region by attracting them with sculpted famous faces, including those of Buffalo Bill, Red Cloud, and Lewis and Clark, as Soft Schools reports. But the former U.S. Presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln ultimately won out to claim the rockfaces.

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