Washington Monument (Washington, D.C.)

The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the United States and once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  Due east of the Lincoln Memorial Pool and the Lincoln Memorial, the monument is made of granite, white marble, and bluestone gneiss.  At 555 feet tall, the Washington Monument is the world’s tallest man-made stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building.

Construction of the site began in 1848 but was not completed till 1888 due to financial struggles placed on the country by the American Civil War.  The break in construction between 1854 and 1877 is visible in the stone used in the monument.  There is a color change just about 150 feet up where stone from a different quarry was required.

While there was still internal work to be done at the site, it was dedicated on 21, February 1885 and displaced the Cologne Cathedral in France as the tallest building in the world.  The title of world’s tallest was short-lived and the completion of the Eiffel Tower took the title back to France in 1889.

The Washington Monument was damaged in 2011 by an earthquake followed shortly by a hurricane in the same year.  It was determined by the National Park Service and the Trust of the National Mall that while the monument could be reopened in 2014, there were still issues that required work.  In late 2016 the monument closed again so the elevators could be replaced and mechanical modernization could take place.

Washington Memorial Facts

  • The Monument is built of free-standing masonry and there is no cement used to hold the blocks together.
  • There are 896 steps from the bottom to the top.
  • The original elevator took 8-10 minutes.
  • Due to vandalism and safety concerns, the stairs have been closed since 1976.
  • The cap at the tip of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum.  Aluminum was expensive and rare at the time.
  • On clear days the view from the top can be over 30 miles.
  • The original cost of construction was $1,187,710.
  • The same trowel used by George Washington to lay the cornerstone of the Capital in 1793 was used on the Washington Monument.
  • The Washington Monument was designed by Robert Mills.

Travel Tips

  • Plan your trip to Washington DC. well in advance.  Some sites are easy to see but others take up to six months planning.
  • Call ahead or check online to make sure the attraction you are interested in seeing is open and be prepared for delays.  If the president decides last minute to visit a public site it will get shut down for the public.
  • There is a lot to see in DC.  so don’t try to see it all on your first visit.
  • Some of the monuments are much larger than you probably think they are so bring good shoes.
  • DC. is hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The best times to visit are Autumn and Spring but they are also the busiest.
  • Navigating DC. b y car can be extremely difficult so leave your car at home or in the motel parking lot.  Take the DC. Metro.
  • Strict security is pretty much the norm at any of the city’s monuments, museums, and federal buildings.  Airport style security checks can make some lines slow going.
  • One site to add to your list should be the museum cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian.  Seriously!  The Mitsitam Cafe features food indigenous to the Americas and is worthy of the trip alone.
  • Take some time to cross the Potomac and visit George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.