The Washington Monument is one of the most iconic attractions in Washington DC, a city known for its historic and political landmarks, including the US Capitol, the White House, and the Lincoln Memorial. The obelisk is the world's tallest, at 555 feet 5.5 inches. Construction on the monument began in 1848, though it was not completed until 1884, due to the disruptions caused by a lack of funding and the American Civil War, among other things. The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.
Alone among the Founders of the United States, George Washington is recognized with the title Father of the Country because of his leadership during the American Revolution. In 1783, the Continental Congress passed a resolution to honor him, as Washington was a general during the Revolutionary War, as well as the country's first president. Efforts to honor Washington thus began during his lifetime, with Pierre-Charles L'Enfant proposing a statue of the general on horseback, but Washington felt it was too grandiose and didn't want the government to spend the money honoring him. So the plan was shelved until well after his death in 1799. Planning for the memorial began in 1832, the year Washington would have turned 100, when the Washington National Monument Society was founded and began fundraising. The cornerstone of the obelisk was ultimately laid on July 4, 1848.
The walls of the George Washington Monument are composed of white marble from Maryland and Massachusetts, underlain by granite, and the whole structure is supported by interior ironwork. When it was built in the late nineteenth century, the George Washington monument was the highest building in the world, though the Eiffel Tower in Paris bested it within five years. However, it remains the world's tallest masonry structure.
A flight of 897 Washington monument steps rises to the observation area in the pyramidion. Inserted into the interior walls are 192 carved stones presented by individuals, societies, cities, states, and nations of the world. Visitors to the monument take an elevator to the top, which affords beautiful views of Washington DC. It is possible to walk the 897 steps down from the top, but prior permission is required from the National Park service.
Admission to the monument is free, but a ticket is required. Same-day tickets are available from the stand on the Washington Monument grounds at the intersection of Jefferson and 15th streets. The ticket kiosk is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm, though tickets often run out early. The monument itself is open from 9 am until 5 pm, though the last tour will begin by 4:45. The Washington Monument is open every day except for Christmas and the Fourth of July, but the fireworks show on the National Mall makes it well worth visiting on that day nonetheless.
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