1800s |

The Washington Monument Is Completed – 12/6/1884

Anyone who has been fortunate to visit the Washington Monument must have been impressed on its’ actual size. Others may have been in awe at looking at it and wonder how on Earth was this able to be built? To answer those and other questions that people may wonder about this huge structure, the answers go back to the 1800s when this monument was finally finished as well as further back to why it was constructed in the first place.

Workers in Washington, D.C. place a nine-inch aluminum pyramid on top of a white marble tower that finishes the building of an awesome monument to the nation’s original president and the city’s namesake George Washington on December 6th, 1884. Looking back to when the U.S. Congress had basically started, a decision was reached in 1783 that a statue of the great Revolutionary War general, George Washington, should reside close to wherever the site would be for the new Congressional building. 

Architect Pierre L’Enfant would be asked by President Washington to craft a new federal capital that would reside on the Potomac River in 1791; Pierre left a spot for the statue to be placed at the western end of the sweeping National Mall which is close to the present day location of the monument.

Ironically, it wasn’t until thirty-three-years after the death of Washington that someone finally did something to have the monument built in 1832 and the same year saw the birth of the private Washington National Monument Society. They held a design competition and the winner was architect Robert Mills for his elaborate Greek temple-like creation. Then, a fundraising drive was held by the society in an attempt to acquire funds for the creation of the statue. 

Although this action, as well as appealing to the nations school children for assistance, $230,000 thousand was raised; unfortunately, this was well-short of the needed $1 million. Nevertheless, construction began as the society’s representatives worked to create the monument’s cornerstone; this was a pure white marble block that weighed 24,500 pounds on July 4th, 1848.

Regrettably, construction would be halted after six years due to lack of funds. Author Mark Twain would later comment about the unfinished monument by it looking like a “hollow, oversized chimney” around the time of the start of the Civil War in 1861. Sadly, no progress would be made about completing the monument for another fifteen years until the centennial of American independence as authorization for completing the monument’s building by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1876.

The monument became the tallest building in the world at that time as it was made of roughly 36,000 blocks of granite and marble that was stacked 555 feet in the air; it was finished in December of 1884. More than 10,000 individuals climbed the roughly 900 steps to the Washington Monument’s top just after the dedication ceremony six months prior. Presently, the trip to the top is made easier through the use of an elevator and each year, more than 800,000 individuals visit the monument. 

The city passed a law in 1910 that the height of new buildings would be limited to make sure that the tallest building in Washington, D.C. remains the monument; this is a fitting tribute to the individual remembered as the “Father of His Country.”

Share On Facebook

Mark Hinderberg

Writer

Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.