The Washington Monument is a monument in Washington D.C. that commemorates George Washington, one of America’s Founding Fathers and the man who led the country to independence. The monument is shaped like an obelisk and stands around 555 feet tall. At this height, the obelisk is considered the tallest obelisk in the world. Construction on the obelisk began in the 19th century and it was only several decades later that it was completed.
Proposals to construct a monument to Washington began soon after the American Revolutionary War. However, no concrete steps towards such a measure could be taken until the 19th century. It was finally in the 1830s that a society came into being with the aim of raising funds for the monument. This society decided to hold a design competition for the memorial’s design.
Although the design competition was held in 1836, it was in 1845 that the winner was announced. Robert Mills was chosen as the winner and his design of an obelisk-shaped monument was adopted, although with significant changes.
After the design of the monument was finalized, construction on it finally began in 1848. The design of the monument called for a hefty budget and the donations for the monument ran out in 1854. Work on the structure stopped and it wasn’t until after the American Civil War that work resumed once again.
This time, the Congress decided to contribute a significant amount of money to the project. In 1879, construction on the monument resumed with some new design changes. With funding from the Congress, construction proceeded rapidly and the building was finally completed in 1888.
One of the prominent distinctions of the Washington Monument at the time of its completion was that it was the tallest building in the world at the time. Soon after it opened, the monument started attracting large numbers of visitors. The visitors would climb the stairs to the top of the monument. By 1888, nearly 55,000 people visited the monument annually. This number reached 1.1 million annually by 1979.
An extensive restoration project was undertaken to improve the structural strength and outlook of the monument in 1998. In 2011, an earthquake caused some damage to the monument. The structure incurred a number of cracks towards the top. Following this, the monument was closed to visitors.
After several inspections and repairs, the monument was once again opened to the public in 2014. However, problems with the elevator of the monument once again led it to be shuttered. It is presently closed until the later part of 2019.
The Washington Monument is constructed using granite, bluestone gneiss and marble. The obelisk design is inspired from the Egyptian obelisks. The obelisk rises for 500 feet and is topped with a marble pyramidion which in turn features a stunning aluminum apex.
The obelisk is hollow and on the inside, it has stairs as well as an elevator. The stairs spiral up in fifty sections and reach the pyramidion. The pyramidion has 8 observation windows. The walls at the base of the structure are 15 feet thick. Towards the top, the walls are only about 1.5 feet thick.
>Another notable feature of the monument is the 50 American flags that stand around it mounted on flag poles. The flags fly throughout the day and the night.
The pyramidion of the monument is topped with an aluminum apex. In the 19th century when the apex was constructed, aluminum was nearly as rare as silver. So the apex was considered a precious addition to the monument and a befitting structure to top the structure with. The aluminum apex of the monument weighs 100 ounces. When the apex was cast for use in the monument, it was the largest piece of aluminum to have been cast.
The Washington Monument is a hollow obelisk, so the inside of the monument features stairs spiraling towards the top. Alongside the stairs, an elevator in the middle of the monument takes visitors from the ground floor to the 500-foot mark. The observation floor is located inside the pyramidion at the 500-foot level. The observation floor has eight windows with two windows located on each side of the pyramidion.
Iron stairs spiral up the interior of the Washington Monument. In all, there are fifty sections of the stairs. Many sections of the stairs have long landings where inscribed memorial stones can be seen up-close by the visitors. The stairs go all the way up to the pyramidion.
They were previously open to climbing and nearly 25% of the monument visitors chose to climb to the top using the stairs. However, the stairs were closed to general public in the 1970s so that the elevator remained the only ascending option.
The first elevator initially installed at the monument was steam powered. It took the elevator nearly 12 minutes to reach the observation floor. This elevator was replaced with an electric elevator in 1901 which took 5 minutes to reach the top. In 1923, a modern elevator was installed which took only 70 seconds to climb to the pyramidion. In more recent times, the elevator has suffered a number of problems which is why the authorities are currently in the process of upgrading the elevator.
A key feature of the monument is the 50 American flags mounted atop flag poles in a circle around the monument. Each flag represents an American state. Initially, the flags were flown on wooden poles erected around the monument and flown only on special occasions such as the Independence Day. In 1958, permanent aluminum flag poles were installed around the monument with each pole standing 25 feet tall. In 1971, it was decided that the flags shall stay mounted and fly 24 hours a day. Since then, the 50 flags have stayed mounted and fly at all times during the day and the night.