Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a large-scale mountain sculpture by artist Gutzon Borglum. The figures of America's most prominent U.S. presidents--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt—represent 150 years of American history.
The Memorial is located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, roughly 30 miles from Rapid City.
Each year, approximately three million tourists from all over the world visit Mount Rushmore to experience this patriotic site. Today, the wonder of the mountain reverberates through every visitor. The four "great faces" of the presidents tower 5,725 feet above sea level and are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
There are many amenities at the site including an Information Center, Mount Rushmore Audio Tour, Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center & Museum, the Presidential Trail, Youth Exploration Area, Sculptor’s Studio, the Amphitheater, a parking garage with R.V. parking, pet exercise areas, Presidential Trail, the Carvers Café, Memorial Ice Cream Shop, Gift Shop and the Mount Rushmore Bookstores.
Visitors traveling on I-90 should exit at Rapid City and follow Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Visitors coming from the south should follow Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which is the road leading to the memorial.
The concept of Mount Rushmore dates back to 1923 when South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson who had the original idea for Mount Rushmore. Known as the “Father of Mount Rushmore,” Robinson’s motivation was to create a monumental attraction in the Black Hills of South Dakota that would bring tourists from all over the country. His original idea was of a large-scale sculpture of Indian leaders and key early American explorers who helped discover the frontier.
When he reached out to artist Gutzon Borglum in 1924, it was Borglum’s idea to honor four great presidents instrumental in America’s early existence, along with a brief history of the country on an adjoining tablet. Borglum also envisioned his work as being the perfect place to store and preserve key documents and early-American artifacts, like the Declaration of Independence, in a Hall of Records to be built behind the faces.
The original plan was to carve in granite pillars known as the Needles. However, Borglum realized that the eroded Needles were too thin to support sculpting. He chose Mount Rushmore (named in 1885 for New York lawyer Charles Rushmore) because it had suitable stone for carving and faced southeast with maximum exposure to the sun. Borglum said upon seeing Mount Rushmore, "America will march along that skyline."
With a site and plans made, funding for the project was the last mountain to climb. Through the efforts of Robinson, Senator Peter Norbeck, Congressman William Williamson and local businessman John Boland, 85% of the project was funded by Congress. The total cost of the project was $989,992.32.
Work officially began on Mount Rushmore on October 4, 1927, and it took just under three years to finish George Washington’s face, which was dedicated on July 4, 1930. Thomas Jefferson was the next completed, with a dedication on August 30, 1939. The Abraham Lincoln figure was dedicated on September 17, 1937, and the Teddy Roosevelt figure was dedicated was on July 2, 1939.
Unfortunately, Gutzon Borglum died on March 6, 1941, and Gutzon’s son, Lincoln Borglum, finished supervising work on the mountain until October 31, 1941.
In 1874, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer led the troops of the 7th Cavalry into the Black Hills and discovered gold near present day Custer.