Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure have sparked major interest in the secrets of US landmarks. What’s hidden behind Washington’s eyes at Mt. Rushmore? (Nothing!) Which Illuminati symbols are carved into the Golden Gate Bridge? (None!) Which Islamic symbols did Obama sneak into the design of the new White House fence? (He totally didn’t do that!)
All jokes aside, there are some cool symbols in US landmarks that are hidden or relatively obscure. Man-made American landmarks are full of imagery from the Greeks and Romans, who were known for imbuing their art with lots of symbolism. There are also some major landmarks built in the 20th century with sneaky little “Easter eggs” included. Read on for some cool examples of hidden symbols in US landmarks that are totally for real.
The Stone Holds Secrets at the Jefferson Memorial
The stone used to build the Jefferson Memorial has a hidden symbolic meaning, according to the National Park Service. On the FAQ site for the memorial, the NPS—after letting everyone know that the number of steps leading to the chamber is meaningless, okay?—says the real secret of the memorial is in the sourcing of the stone. From the outside in, the stone starts in Vermont (“Vermont Imperial Danby marble”) and heads to Georgia (“white Georgia marble”). This symbolizes “the geographic extremes of the original thirteen states from New England to the Deep South.”
Inside the memorial, the stone comes “from an expanding Union”: the floor is marble from Tennessee, while the “inner dome” comes from Indiana. The statue of Jefferson, finally, stands on stone from two states acquired in his Louisiana Purchase: Minnesota granite with a “gray Missouri marble ring.”
'Kilroy' Is Hidden in Two Places at the World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. has two hidden “KILROY WAS HERE” engravings. (Yes, like the Styx album.) In graffiti form, the “KILROY WAS HERE” phrase, accompanied by a big-nosed cartoon guy peeking over a wall, was a popular way for US troops to indicate that they’ve been through an area. Why? That part’s murky: the National Park Service says it “most likely come[s] from a British cartoon and the name of an American shipyard inspector” and that “myths surrounding it are numerous and often center on a German belief that Kilroy was some kind of superspy who could go anywhere he pleased.” Where are the WWII Memorial Kilroys? Behind two golden gates: one next to the Pennsylvania pillar and one next to the Delaware pillar.
Central Park Lampposts Feature Secret Navigational Codes
An unadvertised feature of the lampposts in New York City’s famous Central Park is a code that lets you know, roughly, where you are in relation to rest of the city. They’re cross street indicators, essentially, embossed on metal plaques. Gothamist explains: “If a lamppost is numbered 7304, it is located between 73rd and 74th streets. The ‘4’ designates that the post is the fourth post in from Fifth Avenue. In the upper reaches of the park, where street numbers are 100 and higher, the ‘1’ is omitted; for example, a post numbered 0500 is between 105th and 106th."
The Goddess of Love Is Laying Telegraph Cable Inside the US Capitol Building
There’s an epic painting on the ceiling of the dome of the United States Capitol Building called The Apotheosis of Washington. Painted in 1865 by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi, it shows George Washington chilling out in heaven, surrounded by goddesses and maidens. It’s quite a scene. There’s also a lot of hidden symbolism. Perhaps the most unusual symbolic element is Venus, the famous goddess of love, schlepping cable like a common engineer. Why? Shouldn’t she be doing something more romantic or sexy? Since she was born from the sea, she’s depicted here helping Neptune, the god of the sea, lay the transatlantic cable of 1858 that connected North America to Europe via telegraph. Who knew that the goddess of love was also the goddess of telegraphs?