The Washington Monument is an obelisk-shaped building in Washington, D.C.that was built to honor the first President of the United States of America George Washington. This 555-foot-tall obelisk is the tallest building in the District of Columbia. By law, no other building in D.C. is allowed to be taller.
Pierre Charles L’Enfant (the architect who designed Washington, D.C.) planned in 1783 to have a prominent statue honoring George Washington near the White House and Capitol. But exactly how to honor the first President of the United States was not an easy decision. In 1833 the Washington National Monument Society was formed with the purpose of deciding upon an appropriate memorial. This group had a design competition with architect Robert Mills‘ design winning the contest in 1836.
Work on the stone monument to George Washington did not begin until July 4, 1848 due to lack of funds. Work on the monument was stopped in 1854 when the monument was only 152 feet tall, once again. This time it was because donations dropped off. The project was almost abandoned but work finally started again in 1876.
Sharp-eyed tourists can see the slight difference in color of the marble on the bottom third and the upper two-thirds of the monument.
The Army Corps of Engineers, who started working on the monument after the Civil War, determined that the foundation was not sufficient for the 600-foot-tall obelisk that was originally planned, so a 550-foot-monument was built.
The exterior of the Washington Monument was completed on Dec. 6, 1884. After the interior was completed, the monument was opened to the public. Inside the Washington Monument is an elevator and a 897-step stairway. There is an observation deck at 500 feet.
The giant obelisk contains 36,491 blocks and weighs 90,854 tons. Lightning rods at the top protect the monument from lightning strikes.
At the time the monument was built, aluminum was newly discovered, scarce and very expensive. Therefore there is a nine-inch-tall aluminum pyramid at the top of the Washington monument.
Facts and Figures about the Washington Monument:
|Height from ground to top||555 feet 5 1/8 inches = 169.29 meters|
|Width at base of monument||55 feet 1 1/2 inches = 16.80 meters|
|Thickness of monument walls at base||15 feet = 4.57 meters|
|Number of blocks in monument||36,491|
|Cornerstone laid||July 4, 1848|
|Capstone set||December 6, 1884|
|Officially opened to the public||October 9, 1888|
|Cost of monument||$1,187,710|
|Designed by||Robert Mills|