Artist Gutzon Borglum spent 14 years planning, sculpting, and overseeing the completion of the Mount Rushmore monument. The only issue was that he had one deep concern. He was worried that one day his 400-foot-long by 500-foot-wide creation would be surrounded by mystery.
His concerns were valid considering other historical creations such as Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids. Civilizations could come and go while Rushmore stood, its origins getting more clouded with time.
To ensure that people in the future knew the history of his project and the meaning behind it, Borglum decided he would make an addition to the monument. He would add a massive room situated just behind Abraham Lincoln’s hairline that would contain all the information anyone would ever need about the mountain. It would even house major historical artifacts like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Hall Of Records
Borglum would call it the Hall of Records. In 1938, he had workers begin blasting away with dynamite, carving what he wanted to be the most elaborate artist’s signature ever created.
Born To Sculpt
Borglum was born in 1867. A talented artist, Borglum thought he’d have a career in painting. He saw his brother, Solon, making a reputation as a sculptor, and found he had even more to offer while working in clay.
South Dakota Tourism
After a sculpted bust of Lincoln got Borglum national attention, he was invited to carve the faces of Confederate soldiers into Stone Mountain in Georgia. That project was never actually completed because of disagreements with local government. This got the attention of Doane Robinson, South Dakota’s official state historian. Robinson told Borglum that a monument in the Black Hills of the state could be an excellent canvas for a work on a grand scale and could possibly help the state’s tourism.
This offer intrigued Borglum. After looking at three mountains, he saw the possibilities at Mount Rushmore. He decided to focus on four presidents who had a tremendous impact on the country. These presidents were: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Starting To Carve
The actual carving of the sculpture began in 1927, with 30 men working at a time to blast rock with dynamite. The U.S. government subsidized most of his cost of labor, which would eventually be nearly $1 million.
Room For Visitors
As money was poured into the project in South Dakota, the federal backers were most concerned with Borglum etching the six-story tall faces into the east side of the mountain. Borglum’s attention was diverted to creating this room that would be accessible to visitors that would have tablets explaining the work done. It would also contain busts of famous Americans and key documents like the Declaration of Independence.
The room began to take shape in 1938, when Borglum finally started blasting out an opening. A doorway 18 feet tall led to a room 75 feet long and 35 feet tall; red paint on the walls told workers where and how to extract the rock. Holes that housed the sticks of dynamite created a honeycomb effect.
Relief Workers To Step In And Help
Borglum’s and the government did not share the same ambition. He was being given a limited amount of funds to allocate to the project and the government and considered the room frivolous. South Dakota state senator Peter Norbeck wanted to help Borglum and offered relief workers to assist in constructing the staircase.
Borglum didn’t like this idea and his self-confidence of getting the funds may have been his downfall. Governor William Bulow told him that finishing the faces was of the utmost priority. He was to ignore all other work until later. Any miner would be able to blast a hole in the mountain but it would take an artist to create the actual sculpture.
Despite Borglum’s insistence he was in perfect health, Bulow’s urgency turned out to have merit. Borglum died in March 1941, which left the Hall of Records unfinished.
Completion On Halloween
With resources being stretched to the max, the government declared the monument more or less complete on Halloween 1941. Borglum’s idea for a signature room would be costly, and no more work was done. Today, the room remains inaccessible to tourists.
His family wouldn’t drop the matter so easily. For decades, Borglum’s family petitioned the government to complete the room in honor of his work. Finally, in 1998, family members were able to assemble in the room and oversee a deposit of several porcelain tablets that explained the work done to the mountain.
1200 Pound Capstone
Lowered into a hole in the floor of the room, it was topped with a 1200 pound capstone. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society paid for a ceremony that represented Borglum’s piece of art.
Tablets In The Room
One of the tablets in the room contains Borglum’s intention for both the mountain and the room inside of it: “I want, somewhere in America, on or near the Rockies, the backbone of the Continent, so far removed from succeeding, selfish, coveting civilizations, a few feet of stone that bears witness, carries the likeness, the dates, a word or two of the great things we accomplished as a Nation, placed so high it won’t pay to pull them down for lesser purposes. Hence, 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.”