Secret chamber in Mount Rushmore is there for a reason

Nov 11, 2018

Nested in the goliath head of Abe Lincoln on Mount Rushmore, inaccessible to the public, is a secret chamber with a special purpose that harks back almost 250 years.

The famous Keystone, South Dakota, mountain monument, and homage to America’s founding fathers, was designed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. The hidden vault was also planned as a part of this design. Its intended purpose, though, was never fully realized.

A secret chamber, carved into the head of Abraham Lincoln, was intended as a “hall of records” for important American events from Washington to Roosevelt. (©National Park Services)

Borglum had envisioned a space dedicated to important parts of American history as part of the colossal group, according to National Park Services. The chamber would have been accompanied by an 800-foot stair, a massive bronze eagle with a 38-foot wingspan, and an inscription above the eagle that would read, “America’s Onward March,” and “Hall of Records.”

Inside, busts of important Americans would line the hall. Carved into the walls, nine of America’s most important events from the year 1776 to 1906, from Washington to Roosevelt, would be displayed. There would also be a list of some of America’s contributions to science, art, and industry.

©National Park Services

The sculptor died in 1941, however; thus, his vision never materialized. Yet, Borglum’s wish was honored in 1998 when a repository of records was installed in the chamber, which consisted of a teakwood box inside a titanium vault, covered by a granite cap stone. Inside are 16 enamel panels with inscriptions telling the story and reasons for Mount Rushmore.

There is also an inscription in the capstone that reads:

…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.


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