A rare bird’s-eye view from the top of the Lincoln Memorial (Photos)

WASHINGTON — A rarely offered behind-the-scenes and bird’s eye view of the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday revealed a big project to replace the roof and restore architectural features on its upper portions. The project began in January and is expected to last until September, but it won’t repair all the damage.

A baseball-sized nick in the marble caused by friendly fire during World War II will remain. In 1942, a Civil Air Patrol member with an itchy trigger finger accidentally fired an anti-aircraft gun, leaving the mark in the marble.

“You don’t have to stretch it too much to say the Lincoln Memorial is one of the few buildings in Washington, D.C., that came under attack in World War II,” said National Mall spokesman Mike Litterst.

“You can almost see it perfectly lining up from 14th Street coming in here,” Litterst said of the wartime battery position on or near the 14th Street Bridge.

Some damage to the Memorial’s marble blocks comes from normal aging and from exposure. Some was caused by the magnitude-5.8 earthquake that hit on Aug. 23, 2011.

Upgrades to the drainage system on the upper roof will prevent the periodic flooding that historic architect Audrey Tepper calls “Lake Lincoln.”

“You could be ankle-deep in water over there,” said Tepper, of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. “As part of this contract, we’ve unclogged that drain and we’re going to be replacing the roof drains, making them much more efficient.”

During a sneak peak into half-completed roof renovations, WTOP was offered a rare view of Lincoln Memorial places typically unseen. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Gaps and shifting in massive stone blocks of the Lincoln Memorial’s ‘penthouse’ area will undergo repairs says Justine Bello, the architectural conservator for the National Mall and Memorial Parks. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Narrow passages in the wall behind the Lincoln Statue lead to attic and roof areas. Note the Park Police officer on the far left keeping a watchful eye over the rare visitor access. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This 4-foot crack likely was caused on Aug. 23, 2011, when a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit Mineral, Virginia, about 90 miles southwest of Washington D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This Mylar confetti all over the roof areas of the Lincoln Memorial is from year-2000 celebrations. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Note the previous repairs holding together the marble blocks of the lower roof wall. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
A replacement plug for this area of damage will come from the quarry used for original construction, but supplies are increasingly limited. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A replacement plug for this area of damage will come from the quarry used for the original construction, but supplies are increasingly limited. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The “i” in Carolina almost looks like a stone cutter’s typo, but might be deliberate considering how the “t” in North is positioned. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Efforts will be made to save as much of the original slate as possible that was used to cover the Lincoln Memorial's flat lower and upper roof areas. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Efforts will be made to save as much of the original slate as possible that was used to cover the Lincoln Memorial’s flat lower and upper roof areas. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is not an old repair. It's a naturally occurring inclusion in the marble. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is not an old repair. It’s a naturally occurring inclusion in the marble. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Not all of the imperfections will be fixed. A baseball-sized nick in the marble caused by friendly fire during World War II will remain. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Not all of the imperfections will be fixed. A baseball-sized nick in the marble caused by friendly fire during World War II will remain. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Massive skylights cover the upper most roof of the Lincoln Memorial. Light passes through glass panels to an attic area below lined with paraffin covered translucent marble that emits a diffused glow into the central statue chamber. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Massive skylights cover the upper most roof of the Lincoln Memorial. Light passes through glass panels to an attic area below lined with paraffin covered translucent marble that emits a diffused glow into the central statue chamber. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is the Lincoln Memorial's attic. Sky lights above illuminate floor panels of translucent marble below that emit a diffused glow into the main chamber where the Lincoln Statue sits. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is the Lincoln Memorial’s attic. The skylights above illuminate floor panels of translucent marble below, which emit a diffused glow into the main chamber where the Lincoln Statue sits. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Note that above Lincoln's head are translucent panels of marble emitting light from the upper most roof area sky lights. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Note that above Lincoln’s head are translucent panels of marble emitting light from the uppermost roof-area skylights. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
This copper flashing from 1990 renovations likely will be replaced as roof renovations continue. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This copper flashing from 1990 renovations likely will be replaced as roof renovations continue. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
Alongside scaffolding to the memorial’s roof areas, protective foam and wood panels protect the historic building from any potential damage. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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A replacement plug for this area of damage will come from the quarry used for original construction, but supplies are increasingly limited. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Efforts will be made to save as much of the original slate as possible that was used to cover the Lincoln Memorial's flat lower and upper roof areas. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is not an old repair. It's a naturally occurring inclusion in the marble. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Not all of the imperfections will be fixed. A baseball-sized nick in the marble caused by friendly fire during World War II will remain. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Massive skylights cover the upper most roof of the Lincoln Memorial. Light passes through glass panels to an attic area below lined with paraffin covered translucent marble that emits a diffused glow into the central statue chamber. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This is the Lincoln Memorial's attic. Sky lights above illuminate floor panels of translucent marble below that emit a diffused glow into the main chamber where the Lincoln Statue sits. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Note that above Lincoln's head are translucent panels of marble emitting light from the upper most roof area sky lights. (WTOP/Kristi King)
This copper flashing from 1990 renovations likely will be replaced as roof renovations continue. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The project involves replacing the roof and filling every open joint and seam in the roof area marble to prevent water damage.

Cracks in the marble might be from normal age-related wear and degradation of the stone itself causing settling.

“Having movement in different directions at these weak points of the building provide huge opportunities for water ingress, and they’re treated in a very special way, because we are not just about keeping the water out but keeping the building together,” said Tepper.

The cost of the $3 million roof and architectural repairs is being split between the National Park Service and philanthropist businessman David M. Rubenstein.

What will ultimately become a $25 million project will also improve the undercroft experience. It will expand exhibit space, add a second elevator, upgrade bathrooms and potentially open expansive views into the cathedral-like undercroft level currently not visible to the public.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to indicate a change in the amount of the total cost of renovation.


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