The Washington Monument

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Image by Carol Highsmith

Construction of this magnificent Washington, DC, monument took nearly a century of planning, building, and controversy. Provision for a large equestrian statue of George Washington was made in the original city plan, but the project was soon dropped. After Washington's death it was taken up again, and a number of false starts and changes of design were made. Finally, in 1848, work was begun on the monument that stands today. The design, by architect Robert Mills, then featured an ornate base. In 1854, however, political squabbling and a lack of money brought construction to a halt. Work was resumed in 1880, and the monument was completed in 1884 and opened to the public in 1888. The tapered shaft, faced with white marble and rising from walls 15 ft (4.6 m) thick at the base, was modeled after the obelisks of ancient Egypt. The monument, one of the tallest masonry constructions in the world, stands just over 555 ft (169 m). Memorial stones from the 50 states, foreign countries, and organizations line the interior walls. The top, reached only by elevator, commands a panoramic view of the city.

See also: Landmarks of Washington, D.C. Slideshow.

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