Local

Good Question: How Did Mount Rushmore Get Started?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As many as 3 million people a year visit Mount Rushmore.

It’s become a summer vacation destination for a lot of families in Minnesota and nationwide.

And it has quite a history.

Mount Rushmore began as an idea, a way to draw people to the Black Hills.

Initially, South Dakota state leaders wanted a monument honoring figures of the Old West like Red Cloud and Lewis and Clark.
But artist Gutzon Borglum wanted four figures that represented the entire nation. And he wanted to put them as close to heaven as possible.

When Borglum began construction in 1927, he chose Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and despite a lot of contention, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was hand-picked by Borglum because he saw him as a man of the people.

For 14 years, 360 men blasted, drilled, and carved the colossal faces.

At first South Dakota paid for the project, but by the time Rushmore was finished in 1941, it was federally funded. The total cost was just under a million dollars.

Today, donations help repair cracks and keep the four faces looking as presidential as possible.

Initially, Borglum had planned on sculpting the presidents from head to toe.

But after he got done with Washington’s lapels, he ran into rock that was too hard to carve.

Maureen McGee-Ballinger of Mount Rushmore National Memorial said that people constantly ask about adding a 5th President or historical figure.

Susan B. Anthony’s name has come up.

So has President Reagan, President Obama, and believe it or not Richard Nixon.

But McGee-Ballinger said the monument is done. No changes will ever be made.

If the faces had bodies they would stand at 460 feet high.

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