Washington Monument history

Washington Monument is dedicated to and has gotten its name – just like the city it’s located in – from George Washington. Washington was the US General during the War of Independence and later the first president of the United States of America.

The man behind the monument

George Washington was born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia.  He embarked on a career as a planter and became the owner of a fairly large estate. Through his half brother, Lawrence Washington, he got involved in the military and served during the British-French war as a militia officer.

Political career

After the war had ended, he quickly went back to the business life and his plantations. It was only after Britain forced more and more laws and acts over the colonies that George Washington got into politics. But when he did, he acquired a leading position right away as he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.

Continental general

When the first fighting began in 1775, Washington, with his military experience, his charisma and his reputation of being a strong patriot, was elected commander-in-chief for the Continental Army. Later when the war was won, he became the first United States president when he was unanimously elected in 1789

The Washington Monument

The initial plan for a monument to honor George Washington was proposed in 1783 by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant. Progress towards a memorial finally began in year 1832, the 100th anniversary of Washington’s birth, when a competition for the design of a memorial was announced. In 1835, the ones responsible for the competition described their expectations as following:

“It is proposed that the contemplated monument shall be like him in whose honor it is to be constructed, unparalleled in the world, and commensurate with the gratitude, liberality, and patriotism of the people by whom it is to be erected.”

The winning entry was designed by Robert Mills and the end result is the 82.000 ton heavy obelisk you can see today. The original entry did not only include the obelisk, but it was also surrounded by a circular colonnade which top would feature Washington standing in a chariot.


The cornerstone for the obelisk was laid on the 4th of July 1848. Construction did however stop due to lack of funds and because of the Civil War in 1856. At this time, the monument was at a height of 45 meter. The colonnade part of the memorial was at this time put aside, as the monument project had enough funding problems already.

By taking a closer look at the obelisk, one will be able to see how tall the obelisk stood when the construction stopped, as there is a clear difference in the color of the stone at that level.

The work later resumed from 1876 and completed in1884 when the small aluminum cap was placed on the top. The monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885 and officially opened in 1888 at which point it was the tallest building in the world.

Why visit Washington Monument ?

The mighty Washington Monument stands tall in an otherwise flat surrounding and dominates the landscape with its 169 meters, which makes it the highest structure in Washington D.C. Not only that, but it is also the world’s tallest stone structure and one of the world’s tallest obelisks.

The obelisk is surrounded by 56 US flags, one for each state and one for each of territories of the USA. Together with the nearby Lincoln Memorial and the World War II memorial, the obelisk forms an area of not only beautiful and grand architecture, but also a source of inspiration.

Shining bright

The obelisk is built with granite and sandstone, covered by white marble walls. The monument is financed to a large degree by private donations, and when financial donation wasn’t possible, a popular alternative was instead to donate stone. For this reason, the interior walls contain several stones donated by individuals, societies, cities, States, and nations from all over the world.

Outstanding view

Inside the obelisk there is an elevator which takes visitors to its observation point in the top. From there, visitors get a great view over the surrounding parks and Washington City.

The original elevator was a steam elevator and took 20 minutes from ground level to the top. Luckily, today’s elevator will take visitors to the top in 70 seconds instead of 20 minutes. As early as 1888, an average of 55,000 people per month went to the top.

Today, the Washington Monument has around 1 million visitors each year and has become one of the icons of the city.

Washington Monument location

The Washington Monument is located in eastern United States, in central Washington D.C. The monument lies situated towards the western end of the National Mall area. For the exact location of Washington Monument, check out the location map to the right!

Washington Monument Video

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