We thought we were on a quest to see Mount Rushmore
but found much more. The area is filled with an interesting,
if a bit unsavory, history. We rapidly discovered that an extraordinary work of art can
have an unseemly creator.
The creation of one of America’s
greatest works of art was not without controversy. In 1923, after removing all of the Native Americans and
most of the gold from the Black Hills, historian Doane Robinson
thought that an enormous something should be done to promote tourism.
noted sculptor and Klansman (as in KKK), Gutzon Borglum, to carve
a tribute to America’s first 150 years into the side of a mountain.
Gutzon happened to be available, due to a falling out with his
Klan buddies regarding the depiction the heroes of the Confederacy
during his Stone Mountain project in Georgia.
Borglum came to
the Black Hills to scout out an acceptable site for his masterpiece
and selected the 5,725 foot high Mount Rushmore, named for New
York industrialist Charles E. Rushmore who had mining interests
in the hills.
bigotry and secret society memberships aside, ol’ Gutzon sure
could carve rock on a grand scale.
In 1925 Congress authorized
funds for the project and in 1927 Borglum and four hundred
workers began chipping away with everything from dynamite
to tiny hand tools on the four sixty foot faces. In 1933
the National Park Service took control of the monument and by 1934
face, Washington’s, was finished and dedicated. Jefferson followed
in 1936 and Lincoln in 1937.
was some talk in congress of adding Susan B. Anthony’s likeness
to the monument but with limited funds, Roosevelt’s face
was the final one, dedicated in 1939. Work came to a halt
with Gutzon Borglum’s death and the beginning of World War
II in 1941.
end of work did not bring an end to the disputes. In 1971
members of the Sioux Nations occupied
the monument, hung a drape over the faces and renamed it Mount Crazy
Horse. Despite the controversies, this is a great work of art celebrating
The main entrance
to the monument leads up The Avenue of Flags to the museum and
Grand View Terrace.
The path is lined with tributes to every state
and territory in the union, marking the date of their admission.
As we proceeded under the flags, gazing up at the mountain, the
grandeur of the sculpture really hit us. Photographs simply do
not do it justice. The view from the Terrace truly is Grand (well
named guys!) and the museum offers a fascinating look at the construction
methods and history of the monument.
we needed a closer look, we headed up the Presidential Trail
that proceeds to the base of the faces. Well worth the climb,
standing among the piles of fallen rock, cast-off from the
carving, we were rewarded with views right up the nostrils
of America’s greatest leaders.
David & Veronica,
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