By Mary Bubala

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Repair work on Baltimore’s Washington Monument is about to get underway.

Mary Bubala reports it’s a major project that’s meant to restore the historic structure to its original condition when built 200 years ago.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument offers amazing panoramic views of the city– 178 feet above Charles Street. But that view has been off limits for three years after the structure was deemed unsafe.

Engineers say water leaks have weakened the structure by rusting metal support brackets and hollowing out mortar.

Now scaffolding will go up, encasing the monument as it undergoes a $5 million repair.

“The monument is approaching its 200th birthday, so with that in mind, there’s a lot of damage to the exterior caused by water,” said Lance Humphries, MVP Conservancy.

Mount Vernon Place Conservancy is working in part with the city to mange the careful restoration of the city’s historic jewel.

“You can really see all the damage the moisture has caused. There’s just so much mortar that’s crumbling out of all the joints here. All of this needs to be stabilized. We need to remove the mortar that’s loose,” Humphries said.

The big question: will the city still be able to have its annual Washington Monument lighting to kick off the holiday season?

The city says the time honored tradition will happen this year.

The city’s chief of parks says the 42nd annual lighting is on the schedule.

“I have seen an email that said we start in January, so we have to make sure the lights are down by January after the lighting, so yes,” said Bill Vondrasek, Baltimore City chief of parks.

The monument was built starting in 1815. It was completed in 1829. It should be back open to the public on the Fourth of July 2015.

The $5 million repair cost is being covered by private donations plus city and state funding.

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