12 Washington Monument Facts That Will Surprise You

12 Washington Monument Facts That Will Surprise You

Closed for several years due to ongoing issues with its elevator, the Washington Monument reopened to the public in September 2019. Before you you ride the brand-new elevator to the pointed top for the best view in the nation’s capital, check out these surprising Washington Monument facts.

This article was originally published at Everyday Wanderer on September 1, 2019.

The World War II Memorial is just a short walk from the Washington Monument
The World War II Memorial is a short walk from the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

    

Have You Visited The Washington Monument?

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In this Article

1. The Current Design Was Not the Original Plan for the Washington Monument

Beginning shortly after the American Revolution, a monument honoring General Washington was discussed. In fact, Pierre L’Enfant’s original design for Washington, DC, included a prominent space for the capital city’s namesake between the White House and the US Capitol.

  

 

An engraving of architect Robert Mills’s original design for the Washington Monument
An engraving of architect Robert Mills’s original design for the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mills’s original design was much more grandiose. It featured an obelisk similar to the one you know and love today but standing on a base of thirty 100-foot columns. Resembling the Roman Pantheon, each of the columns would be dedicated to one of the 30 signers of the Declaration of Independence. And George Washington was incorporated into the monument as a statue standing in a chariot pulled by six horses. (That takes the iconic image of General Washington on horseback to a whole new level, right?)

2. The Original Design for the Washington Monument Was $1 Million in 1848

   

 

     

3. When the Cornerstone Was Laid on July 4, 1848, Three Future Presidents Were in Attendance

   

  

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4. It Took Years (And Years) to Finish the Washington Monument

 

The Washington Monument stood partially constructed for decades.
The Washington Monument stood partially constructed for decades. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

  

(That brings a whole new meaning to appropriating public land.)

In 1877, architect Henry Searle proposed this design to complete the Washington Monument.
In 1877, architect Henry Searle proposed this design to complete the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

  

    

5. And It STILL Took Years Before the Washington Monument Was Open to the Public

 

 

    

6. The Washington Monument on the National Mall is Not the First Monument Honoring the First US President

Washington Monument in Baltimore Maryland
At the intersection of Mount Vernon Place and Washington Place in Baltimore, Maryland, this colossal Doric landmark column designed by Robert Mills and completed in 1829 was the first major monument constructed in honor of George Washington.

   

7. The Washington Monument is Two Different Shades of White

When you visit the Washington Monument, look for the visible line about one third of the way up the obelisk where the type of stone used to construct the landmark changed. Photo by Pixabay.

  

 

   

8. The Top of the Washington Monument Weighs More Than a Ton and is Capped with This Surprising Metal

  

The tip of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum
An aluminum pyramid with caps the top of the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

     

Lightning rods on top of the Washington Monument
Do you see the very tip of the Washington Monument? Surrounding the aluminum pyramid is a series of lightning rods that stick up into the air around it. Photo by Pixabay.

   

  

 

 

   

9. When Completed, the Washington Monument Was the Tallest Structure in the World

(And its size still matters today)

No building in Washington DC can be taller than the Washington Monument
Washington Monument Fun Fact: No structure in Washington, DC, can be taller than the Washington Monument.

 

    

    

10. The Washington Monument Doesn’t Just Honor America’s First President, It Unites the Nation

 

American flags encircle the Washington Monument in Washington DC
Washington Monument Fun Fact: No structure in Washington, DC, can be taller than the Washington Monument.

  

The interior walls of the Washington Monument
Two women view some of the memorial stones embedded into the interior walls of the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

  

  

      

11. The Washington Monument is the Only Presidential Monument in Washington That Requires a Ticket

 

   

12. A 5.8-Magnitude Earthquake Damaged the Washington Monument in 2011

  

  

Other Facts About the Washington Monument

Additional facts and figures about the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

Where is the Washington Monument?

The Washington Monument is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It’s directly south of the White House and directly east of the Lincoln Memorial.

Who Does the Washington Monument Honor?

The Washington Monument honors General George Washington, a Revolutionary War hero, Founding Father, and the first president of the United States.

How Many Flags are Around the Washington Monument?

How Tall is the Washington Monument?

The Washington Monument is 555 feet, 5-1/8 inches tall. When it was completed in 1884, the monument was the tallest structure in the world.

When was the Washington Monument Completed?

The Washington Monument was completed in 1884, dedicated in 1885, and opened to the public in 1888. It took approximately 40 years to complete the Washington Monument.

Who Designed the Washington Monument?

The monument was originally designed by

After construction was paused during the Civil War, architect Henry Searle proposed an updated design for the Washington Monument that resulted in the single obelisk you see today.

Who Built the Washington Monument?

From the placement of the cornerstone in 1848 to its grand opening to the public in 1888, it took 40 years to complete the Washington Monument. After several events stalled its progress, Thomas Casey and the US Army Corps of Engineers ultimately completed the Washington Monument.

Was the Washington Monument Built by Slaves?

While several historic buildings — like the White House and US Capitol Building — were built by slaves, it seems the facts surrounding the Washington Monument are a little more hazy.

While there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that enslaved people constructed the obelisk, slave labor was commonly employed at Maryland quarries used to source the monument’s stone blocks.

What is the Washington Monument Made of?

The Washington Monument is constructed of white marble blocks, blue gneiss, and granite.

Why is the Washington Monument Two Colors?

When construction of the Washington Monument began after a 20 year pause, stone blocks from the original quarry in Maryland were no longer available. Stones sourced from a new quarry appeared to match, but the materials have aged differently. Look for a visible difference in color about one third 

Can You Go Inside the Washington Monument?

Yes, but a limited number of people can visit per day and a ticket is required.

Can You Go Up the Washington Monument?

Yes, but a ticket is required and space is limited.

How Many Steps are in the Washington Monument?

There are just under 900 steps inside the Washington Monument. However, the stairs inside the Washington Monument have been closed to visitors since the 1970s.

Practical Information for Visiting the Washington Monument

What’s the Address of the Washington Monument?

The Washington Monument is located at

When is the Washington Monument Open? 

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Is There a Cost to Visit the Washington Monument?

 

How to Get Washington Monument Tickets

  (including advanced ticket reservations) 

What is the Best Place to Park Near the Washington Monument?

While public transportation is the most convenient way to visit the Washington Monument, limited public parking is available at the Paddle Boat Parking Lot along Maine Ave. SW, and along Ohio Drive, SW between the Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. 

Have You Visited the Washington Monument in Washington, DC?

   

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