What do you do when it’s the early 1920’s, Al Gore hasn’t invented the internet yet, and you want to get the word out that your town is pretty sweet – so people should totally come visit?
You build really, really – obnoxiously – big stuff.
Stuff so big everyone will be talking about it, and then come to see with their own eyes, bringing their money along with them.
Remember how the Black Hills were stolen from the Sioux? Well, about 50 years after that, an Historian by the name of Doane Robinson had a dream of bringing tourism to them. (I guess once you’ve gotten all the gold out, you try to get it to come back?)
Anyway, his plan was to carve enormous figures into a set of granite pillars called the Needles.
Side note: Imagine how awesome it would be to have life-like statues of historical figures towering hundreds of feet above you. Straight Game of Thrones status.
Butttttttttt, when he brought in renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum to make it a reality, they changed course. After checking out the Needles, Borglum rejected them because he felt the granite was unsuitable for the type of sculptures they’d be creating. And the last thing you need when you’re building a giant statue to promote tourism is to have one of those statues crush a tourist.
So, they decided to carve them into the mountain called Mount Rushmore instead. And how’d they do it? Mother. F-ing. Dynamite. They’d use it to blow off huge sections of the mountain to get the general shape right. After that, dudes would hang off the side of the mountain and use these massive drills to finish it off.
And they did all this by referring a 1:12 scale model, where every inch translated to a foot on the mountain. Borglum made it his life’s work to complete this sculpture, and kept iterating on the model as they progressed, moving figures around to keep up with what they were finding as they blew up the mountain. (For instance, Jefferson was originally going to be to the right of Washington, but the mountain couldn’t handle it – so he was moved to Washington’s left).
And if that weren’t impressive enough, over the 14 years they were carving it, they got so good with the dynamite that they hardly had to drill at all towards the end. And not a single person died during construction (destruction?).
Today, two million people per year visit the monument, stay at local hotels, eat at restaurants, shop in stores, visit other stuff, and bring $$ back to the Black Hills. So, I’d say Doane Robinson’s dream to increase tourism came true – thanks to Gutzon Borglum’s obsession, and the 400 men who climbed the mountain to blow it up and smooth it out.
Next up, North Dakota…