The Washington Monument: Facts, History & Profile

Updated June 1, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
Washington Monument, D.C.
Image Source: Getty Images

Fast Washington Monument Facts

Height555 feet and 5⅛ inches (169.3 m)

Base width: 55 feet (16.76 m)

Top width: 34 feet (10.36 m)

Weight: 90,854 tons (82,421 metric tons)

Materials: Marble, granite, and sandstone

Number of blocks used: 36,491

Washington Monument Trivia

  • The Washington Monument was closed for four years after an earthquake left it damaged in August 2011.
  • The elevator inside the monument travels at a speed of 500 feet per minute.
  • The total cost of building the monument was around $ 1.8 million.
  • The monument features the tallest staircase in the world, with 8,448 steps to climb.
  • The texture of the monument's stones changes with height, getting smoother as it approaches the peak.
  • The Washington Monument Lodge, located near the monument, was built in 1900 and now serves as a visitor center.
  • The reflecting pool, located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, is home to the famous cherry blossoms.
  • The capstone of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum, which was a very expensive metal at the time of its construction.
  • The Washington Monument is located on the National Mall, which was designed by Pierre L'Enfant in the late 1700s.
Washington Monument, D.C.
Image Source: Getty Images

The Washington Monument is a well-known historical landmark located in the heart of Washington, D.C. Visitors come from all over the world to see this iconic structure, which is a testament to the city's rich history, stunning architecture, and unique geography.

In this profile, we will delve into the monument's rich history, taking a close look at the events and individuals that inspired its creation, so keep on reading for more fascinating facts!

History of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States and leader of the Continental Army. The idea for the monument was first proposed in 1783, shortly after Washington's death, but it was not until 1848 that construction began.

The original plan was to build a statue of Washington, but it was eventually decided that a more grand and unique structure was needed to honor such an important figure in American history. In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was formed to raise funds for the construction of the monument. The society held a design competition, which was won by Robert Mills, an architect who also designed other notable buildings in the United States, such as the Treasury Building and the U.S. Patent Office.

After initial plans were approved in 1836, the process was beset with funding difficulties and design disagreements hindering progress, yet, despite the setbacks, the project eventually took off, and on July 4, 1848, the cornerstone was laid.

In 1854, construction was halted due to a lack of funds. It was resumed in 1876, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the monument was finally completed on October 9, 1888, after a total of 40 years, and it became the tallest structure in the world at that time, until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it as the tallest building several years later.

Washington Monument construction
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Design and Architecture of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is an obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument that ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, mimicking the ancient Egyptian structures — a popular monument style in the 19th century. The monument stands at a height of 555 feet and 5⅛ inches. It is made of marble, granite, and sandstone, and it contains 36,491 blocks of stone, with each block weighing an average of 2.4 tons.

The monument is made of three separate sections, each with a different color of marble. The bottom section is made of white marble from Maryland, the middle section and interior walls are made of blue marble from Massachusetts, and the top section is made of white marble from Italy. The separate section is where the change from construction before the Civil War, and after it, can be seen, with the newer construction being lighter in color than the older one.

The structure has a unique design, with over 189 carved stones and inscriptions, including dedications to George Washington and other important figures from American history. The interior of the monument contains a 70-person elevator, which takes visitors to the top of the obelisk, where they can enjoy a breathtaking view of Washington D.C.

The Washington Monument's Base

The monument's base features 12 façade stones, made of blue gneiss, which depict various events in George Washington's life. This includes images of the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and Washington's motorcade when he was inaugurated as the first U.S. President.

Four other inscriptions are engraved on the base of the stone structure. They read: "East Face: LAUS DEO (Praise be to God)"; "West Face: E PLURIBUS UNUM (Out of many, one)"; "North Face: LIBERTY"; and "South Face: GEORGE WASHINGTON." The inscriptions serve as a reminder of the values of the American people for generations to come and are an important part of the original design.

Top of the Washington Monument

The observation deck at the top of the Washington Monument provides a stunning, panoramic view of the National Capital, including the Capitol, White House, Tidal Basin, and Smithsonian. From the top of the monument, visitors can see as far as Baltimore on a clear day.

Additionally, atop the monument sits a 9-inch aluminum pyramid with an electric light that can be seen for miles around D.C.

Flags by the Washington Monument
Image Source: Getty Images

Significance of the Washington Monument

This obelisk signifies the importance of George Washington in founding and building the United States. It is an icon of strength, patriotism, and perseverance. The monument also serves as an enduring reminder of our nation’s commitment to democratic values, freedom, and justice for all citizens.

The Washington Monument is more than just a beautiful structure; it is a symbol of American history and democracy. It represents the achievements of George Washington and the founding fathers who helped shape the United States into the world power it is today, as well as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for American independence and freedom. Additionally, it is a testament to the unity of the United States, from the capitol to the furthest states, as it was dedicated to George Washington by citizens of all 13 original states.

The monument is situated on the National Mall, which is a park in the heart of Washington D.C. The National Mall is home to many other important landmarks and memorials, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Washington Monument is a central point of the National Mall, and it is visible from many parts of the city, and one of the most iconic structures in the District of Columbia, like the Jefferson Memorial.

Visiting the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a popular tourist destination that attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually. Visitors can take the 70-second elevator ride to the top of the monument to enjoy an unparalleled view of the surrounding city landscape as far as Virginia and Maryland.

The monument's park grounds offer visitors a serene setting of the lush and hauntingly named Sylvan Theater, fields for recreational activities, and areas for summertime lunch beneath the trees. The National Park Service guides visitors around the grounds, offering an educational trip through both the monument and the history that surrounds it.

Summing Up the Washington Monument

In conclusion, the Washington Monument is a remarkable structure that represents the best of American history and architecture. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in learning more about the United States and its founding fathers.

The monument's design, history, and significance make it a unique and important landmark in the heart of Washington D.C. Whether you are a history buff or an architecture enthusiast, the Washington Monument is sure to leave you in awe. For more information about the Washington Monument, visit

And if you want to test your knowledge of America, check out our geography quiz, the U.S. States Quiz!

Lincoln Memorial at sunrise
Image Source: Getty Images

People Also Ask Questions

Other travelers and curious searchers have similar questions about the Washington Monument, which we have answered below.

What Is the Washington Monument?

The Washington Monument is a towering obelisk-shaped monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was built to honor George Washington, the first President of the United States.

What Is the Height of the Washington Monument?

The Washington Monument is 555 feet and 5⅛ inches (169.294 meters) tall from the base to the pyramidion, making it one of the tallest stone obelisks in the world, according to the Library of Congress.

How Long Did It Take To Build the Washington Monument?

Construction on the Washington Monument began in 1848, but it was not completed until 1888 due to funding issues, the Civil War, and other delays.

What Is Buried in the Washington Monument?

Nothing is buried in the Washington Monument. However, a "time capsule" was placed in the cornerstone during construction in 1848, which contained various items from that time period, including coins and newspapers.

Can You Go Inside the Washington Monument?

Yes, visitors can go inside the Washington Monument and ride an elevator to the observation deck located at the top. However, the monument does routinely undergo maintenance closures to keep it in good condition.

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