America is one of the most popular destinations on earth. Not only is the landscape incredibly diverse, but this country is also crawling with iconic monuments that inspire people from around the globe to book flights to The Land of the Free. Tourists and Americans alike wait in line to catch the Staten Island Ferry to check out Lady Liberty and her flaming beacon, they rush around Washington to see what the Washington Monument looks like up close, they marvel at the huge feet of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, and they even stand under the reflective surface of the ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago. Yet, there is one American monument that stands out more than most – and that is Mount Rushmore.
Featuring 60-foot faces of four of the most famous American presidents of all time, this monument depicts the politics and the national love for Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. As well as being incredibly popular for tourists, the South Dakotan monument is also hugely prevalent in popular culture. It has appeared in major movies and TV shows in the past and has often been altered for the sake of entertainment. Yet, one running theme within all of these references is the idea that Mount Rushmore can be used for secret bases, or hidden hideaways for good guys and bad guys alike. However, it seems as though these fictional ideas may not be as silly as we first thought, as this is everything we know about Mount Rushmore’s secret chamber…
A hidden secret
Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous monuments in America and is largely associated with what it means to be quintessentially American. With humongous stone carvings of Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson emblazoned in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, this monument not only depicts the politics of America but also the history. Because of this, Mount Rushmore is now a national treasure and is also known across the globe for being an important aspect of American culture. Yet, did you know that this iconic monument also has a legendary secret that no one’s ever heard of? Read on to find out more about Mount Rushmore’s secret chamber…
Putting a plan into action
However, to understand the hidden secrets that lie within the iconic monument, we have to know a little more about Mount Rushmore itself – and it seems starting at the beginning also uncovers a few secrets. In fact, the original designer of Mount Rushmore never intended to carve the faces of famous presidents on the hillsides. Instead, he was putting a plan into action to carve the faces of famous Americans into the South Dakotan area. There was also another idea to carve a famous scene from American history, but he eventually decided to carve the faces of the four presidents, as he thought it would attract visitors from across the globe.
The man himself
But who was the designer? As a famous historian, it was Doane Robinson’s job was to promote tourism within a large area of land in South Dakota. After he came up with the idea of carving the heads into the hills, Robinson sought the help of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who was to make his idea a reality. The monument was originally meant to be located in Custer State Park, but they soon moved the location to Black Hills because the rock was less fragile and much more suitable for their mammoth task.
The beginning of the end
Before they could get started, Robinson and Gutzon had to relay their plans to the United States Congress and receive approval. So, the pair took their plans and their ideas for the area to the people that mattered and went into detail about the sizes, the shapes, and what their construction project would look when it was finished. Amazingly, their construction project was approved in 1925, and the pair got to work just two years later with a team of workers under their belts. The mission had begun.
Always wanted more
However, Gutzon Borglum was not the kind of sculptor who kept things simple, and he wanted more from the project. When he pitched his ideas to Congress, he showed them drawings of a Louisiana Purchase map that he wanted to carve into the mountainside, as well as a secret chamber behind the giant faces. Unfortunately for Borglum, the map carving was refused, but Congress allowed the all-important chamber. This chamber would be located behind Abraham Lincoln’s head and would be the subject of controversy for years to come.
Hitting a few snags
Although both Robinson and Gutzon were excited about their mammoth project, they soon hit a few snags when they realized how expensive it would be to complete their project. In the end, Congress cut their budget – and this meant they could only carve the Presidents from the neck-up, rather than from the waist-up. However, this wasn’t the only problem. Congress ordered Gutzon to finish the heads before he would be given any more money to complete his secret chamber. Yet, those around him still knew very little details about this chamber of secrets…
The Hall of Records
After Gutzon went to Congress with his ideas of a secret chamber, they allowed him to undertake his vision – as long as he stuck to his plans. These plans included the so-called Hall of Records, which was to be constructed behind the head of Abraham Lincoln and hidden from those who would view the monument from below. The idea behind this Hall of Records was to allow America a safe place to store its impressive history. From old artifacts to ancient documents, the secret chamber was supposed to be their final resting place.
More and more issues
However, their mammoth task was not without problems. Although Gutzon and Robinson were working with a team of professionals, their project soon ran into trouble when they realized that the Black Hills were not as stable as they first thought. Because the left side of the hill was covered in fragile granite, they had to change the position of Thomas Jefferson within the monument. He was later moved to a new location on the left of George Washington but now looks a little squashed compared to his hillside friends.
Nearing the end
After years of hard work, the creators of Mount Rushmore were relieved to see that their project was nearing the end and that none of their 400-strong workforces had suffered any injuries or even fell to their deaths as they scaled the high mountains. Although Gutzon was keen to get the project finished for once and for all, he was also anxious to get his secretive Hall of Records completed, so that his final project for the mountain would come to an end. However, this idea was soon thwarted…
Taking over the project
Sadly, Gutzon Borglum couldn’t finish the project he had been so devoted to, as he passed away just a few months before its completion in March 1941. Luckily, the project was not over. Since day one of construction, Borglum had been joined on site by his 21-year-old son, Lincoln Borglum. Lincoln had helped his father with the construction and the design of Mount Rushmore and took it upon himself to take over the project and step into his father’s shoes. He also took on the project of the secret chamber.
The finished project
Seven months after Gutzon Borglum sadly passed away, Mount Rushmore was complete. After a whopping 14 years of hard work and dedication, they had finally perfected the carving and the facial expressions of the four presidents, and had managed to create lifelike images of these 60-foot faces completely out of stone. Hours and hours of manpower had gone into completing this project, and drilling holes in every segment of the carving to create a “honeycomb” effect. In fact, the workers couldn’t believe that the end project looked so impressive.
Lending a hand
However, the construction workers weren’t the only ones who worked on Mount Rushmore, as Robinson and Gutzon had also enlisted the help of other professionals to bring their creation to life. In fact, we can credit the lifelike expressions to the Italian artist, Luigi del Bianco. Bianco came aboard their mission to lend a hand and was ultimately the driving force behind the presidents’ expressions and personality in the stone. Considering these faces stand so high above the ground, the detail you can see from the park is just extraordinary.
Leaving the project unfinished
Despite the fact that Lincoln Borglum took over his father’s project with the view to finish his creation, Lincoln did not have the funds or the energy left in him to complete the secret chamber. After the faces were complete, Lincoln and the rest of the Mount Rushmore left the project and moved on with their lives. Because of this, the chamber was left completely empty. Yet, in recent years more and more questions have been raised about whether it really has been empty this whole time…
The final price
Amazingly, Mount Rushmore was created on a relatively small budget. With over 400 workers to their payroll, a whole host of tools to their name and even more construction materials, the project only cost Robinson and Gutzon $989,992.32. In today’s day and age, that number would equate to around $18.5 million. Considering the project took 14 years to complete, this is an incredible achievement. However, without Congress’ desired Hall of Records behind Abraham Lincoln’s head, they were completely happy with the finished result.
The skeleton was there
Although the Hall of Records was not complete, that didn’t mean that neither Borglum or Lincoln Gutzon hadn’t made a start on the secret chamber. In fact, this secret chamber is still there today! Those who have had the chance to see this spectacle for themselves have noted that the chamber has been created to look like a long hallway with various side passages that steep their way into the mountainside. The skeleton was there, but Gutzon just didn’t have the funds to finish his impressive vision for the chamber…
The bronze eagle
In fact, Gutzon’s vision for the secret chamber was both elegant and extravagant. As the passageway went further into the mountain, Borglum wanted to create a whopping 800-ft staircase that wound its way even further down into the depths of the caverns below the Presidents. Towards the end of this staircase would stand a huge hall that would serve as the museum to hold important American documents and artifacts. To truly showcase their American heritage, Gutzon also wanted to adorn the hall with a giant bronze eagle.
An official statement
Congress were upset to learn that their Hall of Records was never completed, but they were also upset to learn of Gutzon’s passing – and this mourning has continued ever since. In fact, five decades after Gutzon passed away; they decided to make an official statement that showcased the hard work and determination that went into the project. They commissioned one of Borglum’s quotes to be memorialized in stone and placed it behind Abraham Lincoln’s head. But it seems this may not have been the only way they remembered his legacy…
Finishing the project
In the years since his death, government officials have tried to finish Gutzon’s project and carved important American documents onto huge slabs within the Hall of Records. However, this chamber is no longer open to the public. In fact, the government has made sure that this secret chamber is not accessible to anyone, and have covered the entrance with a granite slab that weighs no less than a whopping 1,200 pounds. Alongside this, Mount Rushmore itself is plagued with security, which ensures nobody even gets close to the chamber.
Shrouded in conspiracy
Because we all hate the idea of the unknown, various conspiracy theories have surrounded the secret chamber within Mount Rushmore. Many believe that something incredibly important and secretive must lie beyond the stone. After all, why would they seal off the chamber? Many of the conspiracy theories involve government secrets and hidden treasure. Yet, one of the most famous theories includes the idea that this chamber holds proof that alien life exists. However, one recent discovery has proven that these ideas are far from the truth…
A hiding place
Although we will never know exactly what lies beyond the stone in the secret chamber on Mount Rushmore, a new discovery has made us question whether it really is something to write home about. In fact, this discovery found that the secret chamber and the Hall of Records is actually used to hold boxes upon boxes of fireworks! It’s believed that the caretakers of Mount Rushmore use this area to store their impressive collection of fireworks in preparation for their 4th July celebrations. Well, at least now we have an answer.