Washington National Monument

The Washington National Monument, also referred to as the Washington Monument, is a magnificent, obelisk-shaped memorial to our first President, George Washington. It is located near the west end of the National Mall in Washington DC.

The monument stands 555 ft. 5 1/9 in. high. At the time it was completed, it was the tallest building in the world. Today it is still the tallest building in Washington DC. It is made of marble, granite, and sandstone.

Facing to the west of the Washington National Monument is the Reflecting Pool and beyond, the Lincoln Memorial. Looking eastward one can see the Capitol Building, over a mile away.

George Washington

Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution

Presided over the Philadelphia Convention which drafted our Constitution

First President of the United States

What better reasons for building a monument to honor an individual.

There had been talks of building a statue or even a tomb (following his death) to honor this American hero. But it was not until the 1830’s that the Washington National Monument Society was formed and began to raise funds and review designs. In a design competition, the Society stated that:

"It is proposed that the contemplated monument shall be like
him in whose honor it is to be constructed, unparalleled in the
world, and commensurate with the gratitude, liberality, and
patriotism of the people by whom it is to be erected....[It]
should blend stupendousness with elegance, and be of such
magnitude and beauty as to be an object of pride to the
American people, and of admiration to all who see it. Its
material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of
marble and granite brought from each state, that each state may
participate in the glory of contributing material as well as in
funds to its construction."

An architect by the name of Robert Mills won the competition and construction began in 1848. It took nearly 30 years to complete the monument due to lack of funds, political disagreements, and the Civil War.

Finally, on December 6, 1884, the capstone was set, marking the completion of the monument. What is a capstone you might ask? Well, the capstone is the crown or crowning point. This capstone is shaped like a pyramid and made of aluminum, a rare metal at the time.

On each of the four faces of the capstone (North, South, East, West) is an inscription.

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North face

Joint Commission
Setting of Capstone

Chester A. Arthur
W.W. Corcoran,
M. E. Bell
Edward Clark
John Newton

Act of August 2, 1876

West face

Corner Stone Laid on Bed of
July 4, 1848

First Stone at Height of 152 feet laid
August 7, 1880

Capstone set December 6, 1884

South face

Chief Engineer and
Thos. Lincoln Casey,
Colonel, Corps of Engineers

George W. Davis,
Captain, 14th Infantry
Bernard R.l Green
Civil Engineer

Master Mechanic
P. H. McLaughlin

East face

Laus Deo

Laus Deo is Latin for “praise be to God”.

The Washington National Monument was at last dedicated on February 21, 1885 but was not officially opened to the public until October 9, 1888.

Popular from the very beginning, the monument continues to impress people, with over 800,000 visiting each year.

Inside the monument there are 897 steps to the top. The stairs are now closed for safety and security reasons and visitors take elevators. From the top one can see over 30 miles in each direction, which includes the whole city of Washington DC.

While inside and traveling to the top, visitors can also view a few of the memorial stones placed in the walls. The east and west interior walls contain 193 memorial stones from individuals, cities, states, societies and even foreign countries. All paying tribute to one of the greatest Americans ever!



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