Ever since I saw the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, it has always been my dream to visit one of our nation’s greatest monuments: Mount Rushmore. (And yes, I am writing this post while listening to the soundtrack). And ever since moving to Iowa and realizing we were only 6 hours away, I have desperately wanted to go. This summer I finally made it to the Black Hills.
HISTORY OF MOUNT RUSHMORE
The birth of Mount Rushmore began with a proposition made by South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. Interestingly, his idea had nothing to do with immortalizing four of our nation’s presidents but rather to carve spirelike granite formations of Old West heroes. It was Gutzon Borglum, who had agreed to do the carving, that shifted the subject matter to United States presidents in 1925.
“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show prosperity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.”-Gutzon Borglum.
Two years later, Borglum began carving the monument. The first face, George Washington, was dedicated on July 4th of 1930. Five years later, Borglum and his men figure out where on the monument to place Lincoln’s head. A year later, Jefferson’s head was dedicated. An interesting tidbit about the monument, a face of Susan B Anthony was almost added to the monument but then legislation voted against it. In 1937, Lincoln’s head was dedicated and the following year work on Teddy Roosevelt’s began. This great monument was finally completed on October 31, 1941.
WHAT DO THESE FOUR PRESIDENTS’ FACES MEAN?
Why did Borglum choose these four presidents? Why was not say John Adams included? These four presidents were chosen because each of these men portray a significant part of our nation’s history. Additionally, these four men symbolize the first 150 years of our nation’s history. George Washington, after leading our nation to victory in our war for independence from Great Britain, established a new American government. Thomas Jefferson symbolizes Westward Expansion with the purchasing of the Louisiana Purchase. Teddy Roosevelt signifies the development of the United States as a world leader. Finally, Abraham Lincoln symbolizes the perseveration of America by extending freedom to all Americans no matter the color of their skin.
MY TRIP TO MOUNT RUSHMORE
My first introduction to the monument came from staring out the window of my seat. It was still an incredible moment but not as amazing as seeing it from outside. It is truly breathtaking. After parking your vehicle in the designated areas and pass the restrooms and bookstore, you come to this overhead called the Grandview Terrace.
Passing through this entrance, you come to what is called the Avenue of Flags. I do not have a photo of the flags but in addition to these flags there are also pillars that have the dates of when the fifty states joined the Union. I do have a one photo to illustrate.
Going on from there, you come to this great open area which leads down to the Amphitheater with the monument above it. It was here that I got some closer up photos of the monument. Like the one at the beginning of this post.
There are two trails that visitors can hike to see various spots in the national park: the Presidential and Nature Trail. I am not sure which of these is portrayed in the National Treasure movie. Maybe one day I can try and figure that out. Because my visit to this National Park was part of this year’s LYA trip and we did not have a lot of time, I opted out of hiking and instead explored the museum.
The museum is one floor and broken down into a main area with some display cases, the bookstore/giftshop, and another exhibit hall where you learn the history behind the carving of the monument and the meaning behind it. Here are the photos I took of the exhibits that you first discover upon entering the building:
There was so much to see and learn that it is hard to pick and choose which photos to show on here especially since I took roughly 502 photos while there. I think my favorite part of the museum was this small alcove where there is this mural that highlights each president and the time period they lived in. The first image was my attempt to encompass the entire thing which did not work very well. So I decided to capture each president’s section separately starting with our first president. The last two photos of Washington are just close ups of dates that are important to Revolutionary War history.
Moving on from there we stepped into a larger room full of display cases with various artifacts that highlighted the process behind the construction of Mount Rushmore. There was also a video that discussed it as well.
After taking a few minutes to examine each display case and watch the video, my parents, Becky, and I moved on to the giftshop/bookstore. The giftshop was your typical store. It was full of souvenirs ranging from bookmarkers to postcards to coins to educational toys for children. They also had a nice collection of books which sadly were priced rather high.
Ever since visiting some of the American Revolution sites out East, it has been my tradition to buy postcards from each place to remember the experience by. At Mount Rushmore, I bought four postcards and then splurged and bought a deck of cards. But this deck of cards is no ordinary deck. These cards are historical document themed. Also pictured is the official Mount Rushmore National Park map. I have quite a collection of National Park maps.
My final stop before returning to the bus was a second giftshop. I had wanted to find a keychain that had my name on it and Mount Rushmore. I have one from Gettysburg but I couldn’t find one. Instead, I bought three flags. Originally, I was just going to buy a United States flag with all fifty states. But then I came across Betsy Rose’s flag (which is the middle one down below) and then I just had to buy the same flag but with the date of 1776 on it. I was going to stop there but after watching the John Adams miniseries I had to get the Don’t Tread on Me one.
Though I did not hike any of the trails, it was a good visit. I definitely want to come back. There is so much to see in the touristy town you pass on the way up to the Mount Rushmore visitor center. There is also a Presidential Wax Museum which features a Churchill exhibit that I desperately want to see. And there is this Founding Fathers exhibit we passed on the way that I want to explore.
Note: There will be more posts regarding some the other four National Parks I have visited. They will just show up on here out of order due to the fact this blog did not exist at the time of the visit.