First Lady Melania Trump cut the ribbon on Thursday, Sept. 19, as the Washington Monument opened its doors to the public for the first time in three years.

The 555-foot stone obelisk was closed in September 2016 in order to replace the aging elevator and upgrade security systems.

After a three-year closure, the Washington Monument reopened to the public on Sept. 19, 2019, and First Lady Melania Trump did the honors. (AP)

Accompanied by a group of local fourth-graders, Melania Trump took the new high-speed elevator to the near-top observation floor, offering a commanding 360-degree view of the entire Columbia District.

She shared on the fan page, “It is wonderful to see the Washington Monument shine again. Thank you to the National Park Service for the care you give our many national treasure.”

For most of the last eight years, the monument has been closed off and on. An earthquake in August 2011 caused splits in the rocks close to the roof of the obelisk. It restarted in 2014, but after a number of elevator breakdowns National Park Service authorities were compelled to close it again two years ago.

“This is one of the most distinctive buildings in the world and one of the signature attractions of any visit to Washington,” said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall for the National Park Service. “So we really didn’t want to close it. We kept putting Band-Aids on, but eventually we had no choice.”

First Lady Melania Trump participated in a ribbon-cutting to mark the reopening of the Washington Monument after a three-year closure. (AP)
First Lady Melania Trump high-fives students from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Washington as she arrives at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to reopen the Washington Monument, on Sept. 19, 2019. The monument has been closed to the public for renovations since August 2016. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

The first lady expressed her gratitude by saying “Thank you to all who supported the project. We need to preserve all of our national treasures for generations to come.”

Starting in October the monument will revert to its normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. For now tickets must be purchased in person; Reinbold said they would soon begin offering about half of any given day’s tickets online.

Construction on the monument began in 1848 and took nearly 40 years to complete. At the time of its completion in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world, but was soon overtaken by the Eiffel Tower in 1889. It remains the tallest building in Washington and, when open, averages about 500,000 visitors per year.

Includes reporting from The Associated Press