The Lincoln Memorial will undergo an $18.5 million renovation this year thanks to a donation from billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein to the nonprofit the National Park Foundation.
The renovation, which is set to continue into 2019, is the biggest modification to the memorial since its 1922 dedication. In addition to Rubenstein’s donation, the National Park Service, a federal agency that oversees all national parks, will contribute $800,000 towards the project.
Rubenstein is the co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a global asset management firm based in Washington, D.C. He also serves as chairman of the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center.
Rubenstein’s donation is part of the Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Park Service. The goal is to raise $350 million during the campaign. $211 million had already been raised by the end of January.
During the renovation, the memorial will, for the most part, remain open to the public without significant disruptions. It is likely that certain sections may be closed off for periods of time while construction and repairs are underway.
Most of the work done to the national monument, which receives around 7 million visitors a year, will occur beneath the chamber that houses the 120-ton statue of Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit space, which currently includes only a bookstore and restrooms, will be expanded from around 750 square feet to 15,000 square feet.
According to the Park Service, Rubenstein’s donation will be used to fund improvements in three main categories: exterior work, new underground spaces and added exhibits. The exterior repairs will include stabilization and changes to the roof and walls, the restoration of the Jules Guérin murals on the monuments interior walls and general landscaping of the memorial’s grounds.
The new underground spaces include enhanced accessibility, expanded restrooms and the relocation of both the museum store and office space, used for security and research. The new exhibits will allow visitors to view the foundations beneath the monument.
The project will be conducted in four phases between 2016 and 2019. The preliminary phase one of the restoration will begin in 2016 as plans for the new exhibits are drafted. Phase two and phase three will form the bulk of the renovations, with phase four enhancing landscaping upon completion of the project.
Rubenstein’s donation marks the largest of the four contributions he has made to the national parks. His funding has supported repairs to the Washington Monument, restoration of the Robert E. Lee Memorial and renovation of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.
In a Park Service press release published Feb. 15, Rubenstein referred to these contributions as patriotic philanthropy, expressing his enthusiasm to honor a historic figure,
“These improvements will hopefully enable more people to better understand and appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable leadership during one of the most trying periods in American history,” Rubenstein said. “I am humbled to be a part of honoring this great man and preserving this iconic memorial for future generations.”
In the press release, Park Foundation president Will Shafroth also voiced his excitement about the donation.
“Mr. Rubenstein’s gift will better allow the Lincoln Memorial to stand the test of time, providing current and future generations the opportunity to connect more deeply with the values our 16th president held dear, and inspire dialogue to help us learn from one another,” Shafroth said.
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