Photo by iStock. Design by Lauren DeLuca for Yahoo Travel.
America is awash with iconic and storied landmarks and man-made monuments that both symbolize the country’s colorful history and provide inspiration to the millions that flock to see them each year. From the Grand Canyon to the Empire State Building, they are all something to be revered and celebrated.
This weekend, the Landmark Festival (Sept 26-Sept 27) will celebrate one such monument—the National Mall—with a music festival featuring more than 40 artists including Drake, The Strokes and Migue. They’ll also be serving up a delicious DC Eats Food Court, curated by famed celebrity chef Jose Andres.
The hope is that the proceeds from the two-day event will be put towards the restoration of ‘America’s Front Yard’ by the Trust For the National Mall, returning it to its former glory.
The Mall itself, which receives over 29 million visitors each year, is surrounded by some of the greatest symbols of American history, past and present.
Sandwiched between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S Capitol Building and overlooked by the towering Washington Monument and Vietnam Memorial, the Mall is a place people visit to honor, commemorate and celebrate this country.
But did you know that the Mall is also home to 12 different museums and galleries? Or that the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which runs for over a third of a mile down the centre of the Mall, holds over 6.5 million gallons of water? Or what about the fact that the elm trees in the Mall have struggled with a fungal outbreak that started in the fifties?
In fact, many of America’s famous landmarks have secrets. Here are ten other national landmarks with hidden stories to tell:
Lady Liberty’s got a few secrets up her sleeve. (Photo: ggisny/Twenty20)
The Statue of Liberty
Gifted to the United States by France in 1886, the stunning Statue of Liberty’s full name is Liberty Enlightening The World, and depicts Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Tourists can take a ferry to Liberty Island and climb the 354 steps up into her crown, but there are a few things that they won’t tell you on the tour. Firstly, the copper skin of the statue that is responsible for her glowing green hue, is as thin as two pennies pushed together in some places, making her incredibly fragile. She is also, vulnerable to extreme weather and each year is hit by over 600 bolts of lightning. While her main function is symbolic, for 16 years the statue functioned as a fully operational lighthouse (1886-1902). And even though you can’t actually see her feet clearly, our Lady Liberty has feet that would wear size 879 shoes.
This beautiful monument houses a statue of Lincoln and a couple other things you didn’t know about. (Photo: iStock)
The Lincoln Memorial
Impressive, imposing and beautiful, the Lincoln Memorial is a national monument built to honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States who was in office from March 4, 1861 until his death on April 15, 1865. The building, which is in the style of a Greek Doric temple, began construction in 1914 and was completed in 1922. Inside is a 19-foot-tall, seated sculpture of the former President. Today it is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving almost seven million visitors each year. But what many visitors may not know is that actual plaster casts of Lincoln’s face were used by sculptor Daniel Chester French to create the statue. The North wall of the memorial also contains a secret inscription, the letters EBL, which stand for Evelyn Beatrice Longman - the artist responsible for the carved decorative border that lines the walls around the Lincoln addresses.
In addition to towering cliffs and sweeping views, the Grand Canyon is also home to mysterious fossils. (Photo: iStock)
Arguably one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Grand Canyon is the result of millions of years of erosion by the powerful Colorado River which carved dramatic, towering cliffs of striped rock that cut their way like a giant 277 mile long scar on the continent. The area is actually responsible for a huge natural mystery as the floor of the canyon contains fossil footprints of over 20 different species of reptile and amphibian. Yet no fossilized bones or teeth have ever been found. Also, in an amazing feat of evolution, one of the canyon’s six species of snake has developed a pink skin to match its dusty red surroundings.
The Golden Gate Bridge might look red, but it’s actually orange. (Photo: iStock)
Golden Gate Bridge
Once the world’s longest suspension bridges, this spectacular 1.7 mile long feat of engineering was completed in 1937 and constructed to join San Fransisco to Marin County; situated on each side of the Golden Gate (the stretch of water from which the bridge gets its name). While many people know that the bridge is constantly being painted, one thing you might not know is that the paint color, which looks red, is actually called ‘International Orange.’ Interestingly, the color was an accident that was originally used as a primer, but it was visible through the fog and blended well with the natural surroundings, so the bridge’s architect chose to keep it.
Who knew that near these beautiful falls is a spooky haunted cave. (Photo: iStock)
Another of the planet’s most spectacular natural wonders, and one of America’s most popular tourist destinations, Niagara Falls is the second largest waterfall in the world, seeing more than six million cubic feet of water flow over its crest each minute. It has also become the number one honeymoon destination on Earth. But while the impressive views over the falls are seen as romantic and picturesque, they also have a darker, more secret side. Just down the gorge from the main falls lies the Cave Of The Evil Spirit, a hidden limestone cavern that has a spooky history dating back over three centuries. Given its name by Seneca Indians, the cave is said to be above the site of the Devil’s Hole Massacre where British soldiers were killed by American Natives in 1763. The legend states that anyone entering the cave will meet an unfortunate and painful demise.
This office building actually makes more money off its observation deck than it does from renting out the rest of the building. (Photo: iStock)
Empire State Building
One of the most iconic buildings of any urban skyline, the Empire State Building is a 102 story skyscraper located in the Midtown area of Manhattan. It opened May 1, 1931 as an office building and has been used the same way ever since. Interestingly, the buildings owners make more money from charging visitors to visit the observation deck, than they do from renting out office space. But with over 4 million visitors a year, generating around $60 million in profit annually, they aren’t struggling for money. Lights from the top of the building can be seen for miles around but during migration season, the owners switch the lights off after midnight so that traveling birds don’t become confused. But while birds might have a shot at avoiding the soaring tower, a B25 bomber did not. On July 28, 1945 the plane became disoriented in the fog and crashed into the Empire State’s North side, between the 78th and 79th floors, killing fourteen people on board. Amazingly, the elevator operator at the time of the accident, one Betty Lou Oliver, plunged 75 stories in the elevator due to the crash, and survived, becoming the Guinness World Record holder for the longest survived elevator fall.
The White House has plenty to keep the first family entertained, including tennis courts, a putting green, and a bowling alley! (Photo: iStock)
The White House
Possibly the world’s most famous residential building, housing every American President, bar one (the first, George Washington), the White House is a neoclassical style mansion built between 1792 and 1800 in Washington, DC. It operates as the official residence and primary workplace for the President of The United States. While the White House has never, and likely will never, be available to buy, Zillow.com estimated the property’s value as just over $287 million. There are just under 500 people who work at the White House, and upwards of 6,000 visitors passing through the doors each day. But the White House isn’t all business. In fact, behind the scenes the property has quite an extensive collection of leisure offerings including a tennis court, bowling alley, jogging track, swimming pool, putting green and even a movie theatre, officially called the White House Family Theatre. There are also five full time chefs on duty for when the President and his family get hungry. Earlier this year those chefs were responsible for the White House’s first ever home brew, called White House Honey Ale, commissioned by the president himself to serve at his Super Bowl party.
What secrets do these four famous faces hold? (Photo: iStock)
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a mountainside sculpture of four former U.S Presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. The four men were immortalized in a 60-foot high carving of their faces, into a granite cliff face in South Dakota’s Black Hills which has long been considered a Native American sacred site. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began the work in 1927 and the faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. The idea for the memorial was originally conceived to promote tourism to South Dakota. But the faces aren’t the only thing that the mountain has going for it. Unbeknownst to many, there is a secret 50 foot tunnel in a crevice on the back side of the mountain that was originally going to be a vault where important U.S documents were to be stored. While the facility was never completed, the Mt. Rushmore Historical Society began using the hidden room to store a scaled down collection of documents back in 1998. Sadly, there is no access to the public.
Creepy rumors and conspiracy theories surround this this incredible dam. (Photo: iStock)
The Hoover Dam
This engineering behemoth holds back the powerful Colorado River in order to create hydroelectric power and provide a water supply to seven US states. The 221 meter high concrete arch-gravity dam took five years to build, opening in 1936 directly on the border of Arizona and Nevada. In 2010, the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge opened, allowing faster passage through the area. Yet over a million people still visit the site each year. The damn cost $49 million to build. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but lets remember that this was the 1930s and if you consider inflation, the dam would have cost $833 million to build today. The facility below the dan has long been the topic of conspiracy theories, with many claiming it to be a secret pre-war research facility. Eerily, there were over one hundred deaths during the dam’s construction and several of the victims are believed to be buried within the concrete structure.
Is the Alamo home to ghosts, buried treasure, or both? (Photo: iStock)
The battle of the Alamo took place from February 23, 1836 to March 6, 1836 in San Antonio, Texas and was a crucial turning point in the Texas Revolution. After a 13-day siege, Mexican troops launched an offensive attack on the Alamo, where around 200 Texan troops were holed up. The Texans were unable to hold the Mexican soldiers off and all of them were killed. The Alamo Mission where the battle took place was originally build in 1744 as a Catholic Mission and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Texas’ number one tourist attraction. Over 4 million people each year visit the site. But The Alamo has some secrets. For over a century, the building has been plagued with rumors of paranormal activity with conjectures of ghostly figures being seen and unusual noises heard. In fact, there were once plans to turn the building into a jail house, but due to all the unusual goings on, these were abandoned. Archeologists and treasure hunters alike have long believed that the site is home to buried treasure as well as hidden graves belonging to the Mission’s defenders during the battle.
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