Tourists find D.C. landmarks closed

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DC,Jacob Demmit

The nation's capital is full of great photo ops this time of year -- complete with metal scaffolding and construction crews.

A large number of the District's most iconic landmarks are partially or fully closed for repairs during July, the busiest tourism month of the year.

Among them: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and other parts of the National Mall, the White House Visitor Center and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Some will be closed for at least another month; others, for years.

Shutdown city
A look at the above map of D.C.'s monument core shows massive areas in red for landmarks that are undergoing repairs. Here are the statuses on some of the most high-profile closures.
Washington Monument (set to reopen September 2013 to February 2014)
The monument was closed after an earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011. In September, crews will erect scaffolding around the entire exterior to seal cracked panels, secure loose pieces of stone and reinstall a lightning protection system.
Reflecting Pool (set to reopen August 2012)
The pool was drained in 2010 to fix leaks, install a filtration system and enhance sidewalks.
The National Mall (set to finish January 2013)
Crews are building levees and drains to protect the Mall from flooding and improve irrigation.
U.S. Capitol (set to finish September 2012)
Scaffolding has been placed around the dome skirt as crews fix water damage, cracks and repaint.
Supreme Court (set to finish TBA)
The west front of the building has been covered in scaffolding for cleaning and repairs since May 2011. Work is hoped to be completed in several months.
White House Visitor Center (set to reopen October 2013)
The Visitor Center will close Sunday for renovations. A temporary facility will be opened to offer some of the center's services during construction.
National Museum of American History (set to finish 2015)
The west wing of all three floors of the museum will be closed for renovations by September. The rest of the museum will remain open, and many of the most popular exhibits will be relocated for display.

And visitors' views of the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court will also continue to be marred by exterior renovation projects that should wrap up in the next few months.

"We are aware that there's a lot of things going on," said Carol Johnson, spokeswoman for the National Park Service, or NPS. "It's sort of a confluence of events, but in the long run we think it's going to make [the Mall] much more attractive."

But for now, the sights continue to disappoint tourists like Kevin and Carol Meadows, of West Virginia.

"We see pictures of it on TV or in movies. That's what you want to see when you come here. You don't want to see that," Kevin said pointing to the empty Reflecting Pool. "We didn't even recognize what it was until we walked up on it. It looks like a drainage ditch."

The pool, which hosts nearly 6 million visitors a year, has been drained since 2010. The project was supposed to be finished this spring. When that didn't happen, NPS officials hoped to have it open by the Fourth of July. Now, they say it will be more like the end of August.

"With a project this size, I would say it's pretty reasonable there would be a little slippage," Johnson said.

The Washington Monument, which typically sees about 600,000 visitors go up to the top each year, has been closed since it was damaged in the August 2011 earthquake. The 12-to-18-month rehab process will start in September when crews build an access road from Independence Avenue. They'll eventually remove parts of the plaza at the base and completely cover the monument with scaffolding.

"Of course, it's going to make a difference in what we call the 'viewshed,' " Johnson said. "But it's really unavoidable."

Construction equipment and piles of dirt have littered other portions of the National Mall since fall 2011. NPS officials hope a large swatch of grass between Third and Seventh streets NW will open in time for the presidential inauguration in January.

Officials also hope the equipment around the Capitol and Supreme Court will be put away around the same time.

"We certainly don't want scaffolding up on the dome while the president-elect is being sworn in," said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol.

If they receive funding, Malecki said the office hopes to complete one of the most extensive renovations of the entire dome since 1960.

"We took [the base] down the original cast iron and stone," she said.

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