There's Been A Giant Room In Mount Rushmore This Whole Time

This is real-life "National Treasure," people.
The entrance to the Hall of Records is 11 feet wide and 18 feet high.
The entrance to the Hall of Records is 11 feet wide and 18 feet high.

Mount Rushmore has been harboring a “secret” chamber since its completion exactly 75 years ago.

Behind the stone images of those four famous presidents in the hills of South Dakota lies a remnant of the planned “Hall of Records,” a museum feature of the structure that was abandoned and never completed.

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Inside the abandoned Hall of Records, an interior chamber tapers off into the mountain.
Inside the abandoned Hall of Records, an interior chamber tapers off into the mountain.
Painted instructions explain how workers were to remove rock to create the chamber.
Painted instructions explain how workers were to remove rock to create the chamber.

Original plans for Mount Rushmore included carving the presidents all the way down to their waists, instead of just their heads. Inside was to be the Hall of Records, a chamber stretching 80 by 100 feet with an 800-foot staircase leading up to it.

Designer Gutzon Borglum’s idea was to fill the room with important documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that would explain why the monument was built in case explorers from future civilizations should stumble upon it, History explains.

But much to Borglum’s dismay, this never happened. Congress shut down the idea shortly after construction began, leaving an unfinished 70-foot tunnel behind the Mount Rushmore faces.

Workers in progress at Mount Rushmore, circa 1940.
Workers in progress at Mount Rushmore, circa 1940.
Lincoln gets a facelift, 1937.
Lincoln gets a facelift, 1937.

But that’s not all. In 1998, a titanium vault describing Mount Rushmore’s construction was placed in the tunnel’s entryway. Borglum’s family entered the chamber as the vault was lowered into place. No visitors to the park have entered since, though staff can access it if necessary.

The repository is protected by a granite covering, etched with words from designer Gutzon Borglum. 
The repository is protected by a granite covering, etched with words from designer Gutzon Borglum. 

Today, a visit to Mount Rushmore includes little more than staring at those solemn stone faces from afar. But it may tickle your fancy to know that if they need to, these presidents can always have a party in the back room.

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