Built: 1848 and 1884
Officially Opened: October 9, 1888
Style: Egyptian Revival
Architect: Robert Mills
Learn About the Washington MonumentArchitect Robert Mills wanted to honor America's first president, George Washington, with a 600-foot (183 m) tall, square, flat-topped pillar. At the base of the pillar, Robert Mills envisioned an elaborate colonnade with statues of thirty Revolutionary War heroes and a soaring sculpture of George Washington in a chariot.
To build Robert Mills' monument would have cost over a million dollars (more than $21 million in modern dollars). Plans for the colonnade were postponed and eventually eliminated. The Washington Monument evolved into a simple tapered obelisk made of white marble, granite, and sandstone. The pyramid shape of the monument was inspired by ancient Egyptian architecture.
Political strife, the Civil War, and money shortages delayed construction on the Washington Monument. Because of interruptions, the stones are not all the same shade. Part way up, at 150 feet (45 m), the masonry blocks are a slightly different color. Thirty years passed before the monument was completed in 1884. At that time, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world. It's still the tallest structure in Washington D.C.
Renovations at the Washington MonumentIn 1999, the Washington Monument faced extensive renovations. Postmodernist architect Michael Graves surrounded the monument with distinctive scaffolding made from 37 miles of aluminum tubing. The scaffolding took four months to erect and became a tourist attraction in itself.
Earthquake Damage at the Washington MonumentTwelve years later, in August 23, 2011, masonry cracked during an earthquake. Damage was assessed inside and out, with specialists examining each side of the famous obelisk. Remarkable videos of the assessment have been posted to YouTube by the National Park Service. Architectural engineers from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) delivered a detailed and illustrated report, Washington Monument Post-Earthquake Assessment (PDF), on December 22, 2011. Major repairs are planned to reinforce the cracks with steel plates, replace and shore up loose pieces of marble, and re-seal joints.
The Washington Monument in the News
- Earthquake-damaged Washington Monument has cracking, chips, in USA Today
- Washington Monument Earthquake Updates from the National Park Service
- About the Washington Monument Scaffolding
- Michael Graves discusses his Washington Monument scaffolding
Facts About the Washington Monument
- Height: 555 feet, 5.125 inches (169.29 m)
- Width at Base: 55 feet, 1½ inches (16.80 m)
- Width at Top of Shaft: 34 feet, 5 inches (10.5 m)
- Thickness of Walls: 15 feet (4.6 m) at base and 18 inches (460 mm)at observation level
- Number of Blocks: 36,491