898 steps for lucky tourists

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 4, 2011

Scripps Howard News Service
Two-dozen visitors to the Washington Monument got a rare treat in advance of the July Fourth weekend.
The elevator that takes sightseers to the top of the 555-foot, 51/2-inch shaft became stuck Thursday evening. Eventually, rescue workers were able to lower the elevator safely to the ground.
The visitors at the top had to walk down ó and that was the treat. The monument opened in 1888, and guidebooks long advised tourists to ride up and walk down. But because of safety and vandalism concerns, the stairs were closed to the public.
And thatís too bad, because the interior of the monument has some 200 carved commemorative blocks donated during its construction. They represent states. There is a Deseret block, Utahís name before it became ěUtah.î There are blocks from cities. One from New Bedford, Mass., has a carving of a whale. There are blocks from foreign countries, including one from the sultan of Turkey that has an inscription by the court poet. There are stones from fraternal and civic organizations; 22 from the Masons alone.
And there is one from the Pennsylvania Sons of Temperance inscribed, ěThe Surest Safeguard of the Liberty of Our Country is Total Abstinence from all that Intoxicates,î a safeguard, we are obliged to report, is largely ignored in the capital.
Surely the inconvenience of having to walk down 898 steps was a small price to pay for a rare glimpse at one of the national capitalís hidden treasures.