Lonely Planet Writer

South Dakota celebrates turning a mountain into a monument, as Mount Rushmore turns 75

One of America’s most iconic monuments turns seventy-five this year and to celebrate, a calendar of events is being organised.

Even though work began on Mount Rushmore – the famous South Dakota carving of the faces of four US Presidents – in 1927, the memorial was not completed until October of 1941.

Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota Image by Getty Images

The mountain sculpture has become the state’s most popular tourist attraction with almost three million people visiting each year.

Debbie Ketel Speas of the Mount Rushmore Society told Lonely Planet: “The completion of the carving is significant, because it marks the beginning of tourism and economic growth in our state.

“It showcases art on a grand scale and the ingenuity, vision and tenacity of determined men and women to see the project through … it created a place that visitors from around the world can come to reflect and learn about democracy and patriotism.”

She said the events would honour the memory of all the people who had made the memorial popular, not least sculptor Gutzon Borglum, state historian Doane Robinson (whose idea it was), and the local politicians and organisations who helped secure funding for it.

Around 400 men worked on the monument, dynamiting, drilling, and carving – while hanging from the side of a mountain in all types of weather.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture of past U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (left to right)carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States.
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture of past U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (left to right)carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States. Image by Alexander Howard

Among the events being organised for the anniversary are a “naturalisation ceremony” for new citizens under the watchful gaze of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Also planned are a “Journey to Mount Rushmore” exhibition at the Journey Museum and a Find Your Park Festival, both in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Later on in the year during October, a special monumental performance is planned at the memorial featuring the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra and the Dakota Choral Union.

Mount Rushmore’s birthday will also coincide with another significant anniversary – the centenary of the US National Park Service, which was set up in 1916.