The Washington Monument

Overview

Built over several decades between 1848 and 1884 as an acknowledgement of George Washington's military and political leadership, the Washington Monument remains one of our great national treasures.
National Mall Looking West

The memorial consists of an x-high obelisk, standing in the middle of a 2-mile long national park known as the US National Mall. Designed in a Neo-Egyptian style with stark simplicity, it has a white marble and granite exterior in addition to metal supports with a winding staircase and elevator shaft for the interior.

Aerial Photo of the monument and the Ellipse

Although the memorial to Washington has become iconic in its majesty, it was not always so. In fact, the monument had an uncertain and rough start. Ideas for erecting a national monument to Washington were initiated as early as 1783 when Congress suggested that a statue of George Washington riding a horse be built. Not surprisingly, Congress could not even get that done, and the legislature waffled on its commitment to the monument for several decades. While Congress passed a bill appropriating funds for construction and a construction design selected in the 1830s, building failed to start in earnest until the 1840s. Yet even then, the project progressed slowly with numerous missteps and halts in construction.

The WAMO at Sunset

The US Civil War completely shut down building, which did not begin again until the 1870s. Nearly 35 years after the cornerstone was laid and 100 years after a memorial to the president had been first proposed, workers completed the Washington Monument by the mid-1880s with an aluminum capping to protect it from lightning strikes.

Construction Design for the Monument

More recently, a 2011 earthquake closed the building to visitors due to renovations. Today, though, you can ride an elevator to the top of the monument. From there, visitors can see a stunning view of the White House, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the United States Capitol Building.