We’ve all seen pictures of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. There aren’t many places in the U.S. to see giant sculptures carved into the side of mountains.
This sculpture happens to be in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The 60-foot-high monument depicts U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It was completed in 1941, planned and executed by a man named Gutzon Borglum (his son, Lincoln, helped oversee the site).
You might not know that Borglum thought it needed a little something extra in the form of a written description. Specifically, he wanted to carve an inscription of the nine most important events in U.S. history from 1776 to 1906, roughly 80 by 120 feet in size. And he wanted it to be in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase.
His plan to add some extra flair failed since the text could not be made legible. Also, they needed the planned space for Lincoln’s head.
Borglum then developed a plan to build a room inside the mountain to hold documents and other artifacts that were important to American history. It was to be drilled into a small canyon behind Lincoln’s mouth and accessible by an 800-foot granite stairway.
This “Great Hall” was designed to have bronze and glass cabinets inside, containing documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the planned bronze eagle with a 38-foot wingspan with the words “America’s Onward March” and “The Hall of Records” engraved above it.
Construction on the Hall of Records actually began in July of 1938. It got to the point where a 70-foot tunnel was blasted into the side of the mountain. But Congress shut down the plan. Borglum died in 1941, and then the U.S. was preoccupied with WWII, so all work on the monument shut down.
According to the National Park Service:
“Although Borglum’s grand scheme for the Hall of Records had to be abandoned, the idea remained. On August 9, 1998, Gutzon Borglum’s dream was completed when a repository of records was placed in the floor of the hall entry. This repository consists of a teakwood box, inside a titanium vault, covered by a granite capstone. Etched on the capstone is the following quote by Gutzon Borglum:
‘..let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.‘
The repository contains sixteen porcelain enamel panels. Inscribed on the panels is the story of how Mount Rushmore came to be carved, who carved it, the reasons for selecting the four presidents depicted on the mountain and a short history of the United States. This repository is not accessible to visitors but is left as a record for people thousands of years from now who may wonder how and why Mount Rushmore was carved.” – WTF fun facts