Mount Rushmore is one of the treasures of the United States, and arguably the best and most popular attraction of South Dakota. The monument itself is absolutely massive, and it took many days and millions of dollars to complete. The sheer manpower that was needed to blast and chisel the rock away reached nearly 400 men. Over the 14 years, it took to complete the project, the men of the mountain unified not only to create one the most historic sculptures on US soil, but also a sports team–their story is unique.

Many people know the basic information about the site from either history class, or from traveling to it first hand, but few know about the secrets hidden within the creation and construction of the hidden room behind the mountain. It’s best seen from aerial view because of the steep and secluded location of the room. The original designs must have been for a special purpose, right? After all, funding wouldn’t be allocated to a room that the investors didn’t think was necessary…

There have been rumors and myths about the origin of the room as well as what it’s used for today, and we’re here to help solve those. The room is under surveillance most of the time, but luckily we’ve put together a list of pictures that help you get a first-hand experience into the mystery behind Mount Rushmore, as well as a detailed history behind the masterpiece created more than 60 years ago.

25. Mount Rushmore

South Dakota is famous for the massive monument that is carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region in Keystone. The giant 59-foot sculpture was created by US artist and sculptor John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum and his son Lincoln over a 14-year span starting in 1927. It features four US presidents covered with granite: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt.

24. The Process

The project was intended to attract tourism in the region, and that it did. It continues to bring over three million visitors each year, making it South Dakota’s largest attraction. The idea originated from historian Doane Robinson, who is responsible for persuading the famous to take part in the project. The original design had plans for each president to be depicted from the waist up, but due to lack of funding towards the end of the project, the final version stopped just below the neck.

23. Controversy Over Location

Controversy over the land and mountain that the monument was built on started long before construction began, as the mountain held special meaning to the Lakota Sioux. Before 1885 the mountain was known to the people of the surrounding area as “The Six Grandfathers” but was renamed after Charles E. Rushmore decided he discovered it on an expedition. During the time of the project, the Lakota Sioux were essentially robbed of their spiritual land by the U.S. government as they asserted military control over the area to ensure the federally funded project would be finished.

22. The Selection

During the time of construction, America had its 30th president Calvin Coolidge, which poses the question, “why wouldn’t they pick more recent leaders?”. Well, the answer is actually quite comprehensive–each president represents an important era in American history. Washington was the first president, Jefferson for his devotion to the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln for his part in the end of slavery, and Roosevelt for his advance of the Panama canal and economical mindset.

21. The Change Up

When looking at the monument you may think it looks a little cramped, and you’re right. The original design had Jefferson located on Washinton’s right, but soon excavators realized the rock in that location was unsuitable. Therefore, he was moved to left instead, making Roosevelt look squished in between. They probably should have tested the rock before they chose the final location…

20. The Order: Washington First

As construction began, Washinton was the first to be carved into the historic mountain, beginning on July 4th, 1934. Jefferson followed in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and finally Roosevelt in 1939. It took over 400 workers to complete the memorial and thankfully, there were no fatalities during the dangerous process. Surprisingly, the monument only took around $1 million dollars to make.

19. A Woman On Mount Rushmore?!

It turns out, that in 1937 Eleanor Roosevelt proposed a bill to congress to have women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony added to Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, due to “funding difficulties” the proposition was denied, leaving the mountain exclusive to men. This photo isn’t real, but this is what it might have looked like if things went a little differently.

18. The Secret Room


So what’s all this talk about a secret room hidden in Mount Rushmore? It turns out that designer John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum always had plans to create the secret room, and his intentions have caused many questions as to the purpose of the room. If you look closely, you may be able to spot the room in the photo shown above…

17. Purpose Of The Room

The room was created in order to store American treasures like documents and other valuable items, but was, unfortunately, unfinished due to Borglum’s death in 1941. The room is located at Lincoln’s hairline and it can really only be seen in from an areal shot or if you’re on top of the mountain. Thoughts even circulated that the documents would be entombed in the room to tell the story of America to future inhabitants.

16. What’s Inside

Due to Borglum’s death leaving the project unfinished, there is actually no finished room, but rather a hallway. It’s quite a hike up there, which leaves the contents of the hallway a mystery to most people. In fact, it’s kept under tight security most of the time…

15. Off Limits

Though many people have visited Mount Rushmore over the years, the security remains tight to keep people from entering the secret room. It makes you wonder what’s really in the room and why they want to keep it so secret, so hidden, for so many years…

14. Building The Chamber

Here is a close-up photograph of the chamber being created, which makes you wonder if they were aware of an alternate purpose for the room, or if it really was just intended to be a time capsule. Although Borglum’s son took over the project after his death, the efforts on the chamber seemed to abruptly come to a halt…

13. Chamber of Secrets

The original plans for the room included a variety of “extras” or special touches that would make the mountain truly unique. He wanted to add a massive panel to go with the massive monument, that was in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase and bronze letters commemorating the Declaration of Independence among seven other territorial achievements. Quickly plans changed and instead of the letters and panel, the chamber was started.

12. The Project Began Again

In the 1990’s funding was revived and the chamber was set to be completed, finishing the artist’s dream. So if the room is finished, why won’t they let us tour it? It only seems fair and logical that if the money was spent on finishing it, that it be open to the public! There must be something else going on here…

11. A Vault

Apparently, after the job was completed it was sealed up with a padlock and officially became the time capsule that the artist wanted it to be. Before it was all locked up, a tribute and biography of Borglum were placed inside. It’s quite the touching story considering the controversy surrounding the location of the monument that we mentioned previously.

10. Conspiracy Theories

Due to the secretive nature of the chamber, many conspiracy theorists believe that there is something more serious going on regarding the government and what they’re trying to hide from the public. It could be aliens, or even something unimaginable, but one thing is for sure–if you were going to hide something the best place to do it would be deep within a mountain and behind a titanium lock.

9. One Of The Most Secure Places

Due to the value of the sculpture of Mount Rushmore and its unique and timeless aesthetic, the site has tons of security at it, at all times. If you were thinking about sneaking up into the private room, think again–they always have it on lock. The top-notch security they keep there makes you really question what they’ve got hidden up there..

8. Constant Up-Keep

Mount Rushmore wasn’t cheap to build, as it cost a total of $989,992.32 from start to finish, but it’s the type of gift that just keeps on giving. Every year the mountain has to be pressure washed to prevent nature from doing what it does best and cover it with life such as shrubbery, vines, small plants, etc. At least the cleaner has a nice view while they work, as the mountain is illuminated every night for at least two hours.

7. A Maze Inside

The maze-like structure of the inside makes one question why the aesthetic was intentionally made to confuse someone. If this is the case, then the creator is the only one who wouldn’t get confused in the dark corners of the vault. It has an Egyptian vibe when you look at it long enough…

6. Stone Tribute

Borglum did leave something to remember the leaders whose faces are carved into the giant rock. The poetic tribute is something that can be seen when the site is actually open for tourism. The lovely stone tribute is located at the beginning of the tunnel.

5. Fireworks?

When and if you finally get to look inside, the contents might actually surprise you. There is no mysterious documents or top secret formulas hidden deep within the mountain, but rather a bunch of fireworks. So many fireworks are stored there it makes you wonder who would need such an arsenal of flames, and how can you see them in action.

4. Firework Show

So all those fireworks that are stored in the hidden compartment do actually get used, and the show is absolutely stunning. The event usually happens every year on the 4th of July as thousands of onlookers flock to see this historic event.

3. Legacy

The important historic figures that make up Mount Rushmore aren’t the only historic or legendary parts of this monument, but there was also a famous Hollywood movie filmed there. The most famous film that has scenes that feature this monument is North By Northwest, with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

2. It Gets Weirder

If Mount Rushmore’s secrets and weird facts haven’t been enough for you so far, there are a couple more! Did you know that there was actually a Mount Rushmore Baseball team? The team was composed of the hard working men that built the monument as they all realized a team sport would help boost morale. The team split when the construction was finished but the pictures are still around in museums today.

1. Grand View Terrace

A final fact to leave you with about Mount Rushmore is that it has a symbol of unity, located at the end of the avenue of flags, which has a flag for each state, one district, three territories, and two commonwealths of the United States of America. This isn’t mysterious but it is a nice entrance into the hidden gate and secrets that lie behind Mount Rushmore.