10 million people have done it in the last century.
Those who climb to the top of the 252-foot-tall Pilgrim Monument are rewarded with a newly-enhanced panoramic, 360-degree view across the tip of Cape Cod. The trip also can symbolize the achievement of the Pilgrims, who arrived in Provincetown Harbor in 1620 after an arduous journey aboard the Mayflower.
The granite monument was built between 1907 and 1910, and dedicated to that community of seafarers who had gone in search of personal freedoms. A century of salty moisture having taken its toll, the landmark last year underwent a major restoration that repaired its deteriorated stairways, ramps and other interior spaces.
With 166 steps and 60 ramps from bottom to top, it was an ambitious and challenging task.
“Granite is virtually indestructible, but embedded steel technology, which was used on the inside when the monument was originally constructed, was in its early genesis,” explains John Bologna, P.E., chief executive officer of Coastal Engineering Co., Inc. the Orleans-based firm that provided structural engineering and construction administration services for the project.
“Salt-laden moisture infiltrated the thin concrete sections with salt, causing the steel to disintegrate over time. A comprehensive plan was needed to repair the structure. One option was to gut the interior and build new from the inside, but that would be costly, and it would compromise the historic fabric of the monument. Working with the monument’s board of trustees, it was decided that new technology reinforcement was the way to go,” Bologna says.
Coastal Engineering put together a program to mitigate the corrosive problems using advanced fiber technology.
“Think about it like a Corvette or a race car – with all-fiberglass bodies, but aerodynamic and strong,” says Bologna, adding, “Advanced fiber technology is also used in spacecraft and watercraft.”
Along with reinforcing the stairs and ramps, handrails were added. Safety grates were installed on the observation deck and new tempered glass panels enable a completely unobstructed view.
“What was there before is what you see now, but with modern products to improve waterproofing,” says Bologna, whose design was careful to respect the historical authenticity of the structure.
“We followed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s program for restoration of historic structures, so there was no distracting from that.”
John McDonaugh, executive director of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, says he’s thrilled with the renovation.
“It made the interior cleaner and brighter, and it’s a more safe experience than before. The reviews have been very positive,” McDonaugh says, noting that close to 85,000 people climbed the restored monument last summer, just after the project was finished.
“It sounds like an old-fashioned term now, but the restoration brought space-age technology to a 100-year-old structure,” adds McDonaugh.
The historical landmark is an important tourism attraction in Provincetown, but there’s more to it than that.
“We are here for the purpose of commemorating the Pilgrims’ arrival. While anchored in Provincetown Harbor they wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact, which is arguably one of the country’s most important documents,” he says.
“It’s a big deal for the Cape and the country, and as we begin to plan for 2020 – the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing — people will become even more aware of the monument’s significance.”
The Pilgrim Monument is the tallest granite structure in the U.S. It was designed by Willard T. Sears, a prominent New England architect who specialized in Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival styles. Sears patterned the Pilgrim Monument after the 14th century Torre Del Mangia tower in Siena, Italy.