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How 10 Famous Landmarks Get Clean

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Happy first day of Spring! This is the time of year when we cleanse our homes of all the muck and mustiness of winter. But it's not just houses that get a thorough cleaning. Monuments and statues do, too—sometimes just once every few years, sometimes more than once a year. After looking at these photos of courageous workers going to great heights and grimy detail to shine up some much-beloved landmarks, your spring cleaning won't seem like such a chore.

1. Eiffel Tower

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The 124-year-old tower is cleaned every year, a task that requires 4 tons of wipes, 25,000 garbage bags, 10,000 doses of detergent and 105 gallons of metal cleaning solution. Every 7 years, the tower is repainted by hand with lead-free paint in three shades of brown (darkest at the bottom). The repainting requires nearly 60 tons of paint and can last up to 18 months. You can see a short newsreel video of a 1946 spring cleaning at British Pathe.

2. Richard I

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This cleaning of the Richard I statue in London, England, took place in February 1933. In an extensive 2009 restoration, conservators removed dirt and a coating of black wax from the 150-year-old statue, repainted it dark brown, and treated it with clear wax to guard against pollution and weather. 

3. The Great Westminster Clock/Big Ben

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Cleaning the face of London's famous clock is a big job: Each dial—there are four!—is 23 feet square. There are 312 panes on each face. The hour hand is 9 feet long, and the minute hand is 14 feet long. Each number is about 2 feet high. And the clock doesn't stop running while they work—so cleaners rappelling from nylon ropes have to dodge the moving hands (the minute hand moves at about a foot a minute). For this cleaning, which took place in March 1930, a cleaner named Mr. Larkin lowered himself down the face using a rope.

4. Statue of Liberty

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This cleaning of Lady Liberty's torch took place in November 1974, in preparation for the U.S.'s Bicentennial celebrations. (In high winds, the torch can sway up to 6 inches. Scary!) Until at least the 1930s, the monument got an annual wash, but not a scrub—the green patina on the statue actually keeps the copper safe. One cleaning of the interior of the statue with bicarbonate of soda, performed in 1986, leaked through to the exterior and left streaks on the statue's left cheek and right arm.

Here's video of a cleaning from the 1930s:

And check out pictures from an extensive renovation in 1984 at the Library of Congress. (Thanks to Matt for the head's up!)

Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, is currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, Lady Liberty's framework—which was designed by Gustav Eiffel—saved the 126-year-old statue itself from any damage, but a major cleanup on the island, estimated to cost $59 million, is underway. It was recently announced that it would reopen this summer for the Fourth of July.

5. Lincoln Memorial

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Twice a year, Honest Abe's marble doppelgänger in Washington, D.C., gets a thorough washing with a power hose.

6. Mount Rushmore

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This monument, completed in 1941, received its first cleaning in the summer of 2005. The 60-foot-tall granite faces of four great American presidents were blasted with highly pressurized 150-degree water, which caused all the dirt, grime, and moss that had accumulated to fall away.

7. The Structures and Statues of Acropolis Hill

Optics.Org

In 2008, scientists began using lasers to clean the surfaces of the 2500 year old monuments on Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece, of a black film caused by pollution. The decision to use the high-tech lasers—a beam of infrared and a beam of ultraviolet rays, firing simultaneously—came after a test of 40 different methods, including mechanical and chemical processes, to determine what would clean the best while maintaining detail. Because of the rays from the lasers, goggles-wearing restorers could work for only two hours a day. You can see how the technology works in the video below:

8. The Space Needle

KomoNews

In 2008, the Space Needle got its first cleaning since it opened for the 1962 World's Fair. Working only at night, Karcher GmbH & Co.—which also cleaned Mount Rushmore—used water pressurized to 2,610.6 psi and heated to 194 degrees Fahrenheit to rid the 604-foot-tall tower of dirt, grime, and bird droppings. The cleaners lowered themselves by rope from the top of tower. You can see more of the amazing photos from the cleaning at KomoNews.

9. The Empire State Building

Master Cleaners

Window washers working at the 102-story Empire State Building couldn't attach ropes to the roof and lower themselves down because the roof wasn't flat. Instead, they hooked harnesses to eyebolts embedded inside the building. Check out this 1938 video of some daring cleaners hard at work:

10. The Hollywood Walk of Fame

John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times / July 21, 2010

In 2010, the LA Times profiled Walk of Fame cleaner John Peterson, who, at that point, had kept the then-2412 stars clean for 14 years. Peterson, an employee of CleanStreet, used Brasso metal polish, Windex, and paper towels to get the job done; 13 other CleanStreet employees powerwash the Walk of Fame at night to avoid tourists. The one-legged man—who lost his lower right leg to a congenital disease—was still at it as recently as 2012.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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