The Washington Monument is arguably one of the greatest feats of mankind and a symbol of American pride. It stands at 169 meters and is located at the West end of the National Mall. The monument was built to honor our country’s first President, George Washington, and took 36 years to complete. The monument, designed by Robert Mills, is made of sandstone, granite and marble.
Shortly after George Washington’s death, a congressional committee planned for a monument to the first president in the form of a tomb that would be erected in the Capitol. Washington’s family was not interested in moving his body and Congress was slow to act at that time. So it wasn’t until several years later, on the 100th anniversary of Washington’s birth, that the Washington National Monument Society formed and began collecting donations to build a monument for Washington. The Society held a contest in the 1830’s for the submission of designs for a monument.
The Society board described their expectations:
“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. “
The winner was architect Robert Mills who was also the Architect of Public Buildings for Washington at the time. Construction on the monument began in 1848, and then stalled due to lack of funds and the Civil War. After the War, construction resumed in 1876 – 20 years after Mills passed away and thus was unable to see his vision completed. Construction was instead directed by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was completed December 6th, 1884.
When construction resumed, it was impossible to obtain marble to match that had been used to build the base. During the gap in construction, mining had continued at the marble quarry where the stone was obtained. As a result, there is an obvious change in color of the exterior stone that marks the time of the Civil War.
Today, the Washington Monument continues to draw in visitors every year. On a clear day, you can see the monument reflected in the Reflecting Pool built on the west side of the monument. Although the view from the monument is fantastic, OnBoard Tours suggests that you visit the top of the Old Post Office Pavilion instead. The Post Office offers similar spectacular views of Washington DC, but there is almost never a line, and it’s the highest place in DC from which you can view the Washington Monument.