Washington Monument

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built to honor the leader of the Continental Forces and the first President of the United States of America, George Washington.


The Residence Act of 1790 allowed President Washington to appoint Peter L’Enfants to design Washington D.C. The monunment was to be the centerpiece of the city. The Washington National Monumnet Society reviewed many designs over aa 46 year period and finally in 1836 selected Robert Mills’ obelisk with a pantheon of the Founding Fathers design. Construction on the monument began in 1848 and was halted during the Civil War. Eventually, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assumed control of construction, completing the monument in 1884.

The Construction of the Washingon Monument encountered many pitfalls over the course of its construction. The ground at the original location in Peter L’Enfants’ design proved to be too unstable for the monument’s weight, so it was moved to its current location. In 1832, the Washington National Monument Society was formed they begain collection donations to begin construction. Relying heavily on donations, construction continued through 1854 when donations finally ran out. The next year, Congress approved $200,000 to continue construction, but quickly backed out of their comment due to a bill passed in 1849. Construction once again resumed as states began dontaing blocks to the project. Businesses, organizations, foreign countries and even Pope Pius IX.

In 1854, the Know-Nothings party assumed control of the Washington National Monument Society. They controlled the Society until 1858 appointing masons of poor quality. Again, donations ran out and construction was halted. In 1876, the Washington Monument stood at 1/3 of the original proposed height. The same year, Congress approved to provide $200,000 to resume construction. The original design included a colonade, which surrounded the obelisk, but omitted as the society chose a new design by William Wetmore Story. In 1879, construction finally resumed headed by Lt. Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Corps of Engineers couldn’t find the original quarry, so they used stones from another quarry. This is why the bottom third of the Washington Monument is slightly a different color than the rest of the monument.


The Washington Monument stands at 555 feet 5 1/8 inches tall, making it the world’s tallest obelisk and tallest stone structure. The monument is constructed of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885 and officially opened on October 9, 1888. It was the world’s tallest structure until the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889. The Washington Monument weighs 82,421 tons and contains 36,491 blocks of stone. The capstone, set on December 6, 1884, weighs 3,300 pounds.

Once open to the public over 10,000 people climbed 897 steps and 50 landings to reach the top. The original steam elevator took 20 minutes to reach the top of the Washington Monument. In 1888, an average of 55,000 people visited the monument and today over 800,000 vistors tour the monument. The total cost to construct the Washington Monument was $1,187,710.

Quick Facts & FIgures

Construction Start: 1848

Construction Ended: 1884

Designer: Robert Mills

Annual Tourists: 800,000

Height: 555′ 5 1/8″

Total Weight: 82,421 tons

Total Blocks: 36,491

Capstone Weight: 3,300 lbs

Total Steps: 897

Total Cost: $1,187,710