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The Washington Monument

20,000 people were present for the beginning of construction in 1848
The Washington Monument was dedicated by President Chester Arthur on February 21, 1885, one day before Washington’s birthday.
Over 800,000 people visit the Washington Monument each year.

Dominating the skyline of Washington, DC the Washington Monument stands 555.5 feet tall. The view from the top of the Observation Platform is stunning, showcasing the entire National Mall and much of the District of Columbia below in all directions. Visiting the Washington Monument is one of the top things to do in DC. The Monument is one of the best attractions for kids, families, or couples because the grounds are open 24/7. It’s fun to walk up to the base of the Monument, even when the elevator is closed, to take in the spectacular view from all directions.

The Washington Monument that we know today is an obelisk- a tall four-sided design used by ancient Egyptians, then by the Greeks and Romans. Originally the Washington Memorial was planned to be a simple statue of George Washington on horseback!

Then things changed on the ground, literally – the actual land around the hill where the Monument stands today was expanded by reclaiming swampland behind the White House, and the new, much larger, more powerful design by Robert Mills that we see today was begun in 1848 to honor our first President.

Then events took another dramatic turn in the mid 1850’s: funding for the Washington Monument ran out at the same time the American Civil War was brewing. Congress was deeply distracted by the impending War Between the States and the Washington Monument project was halted for almost 20 years. This long pause in construction at the 152-foot level caused the color shift in the stone we can still see today on the Monument. After 20 years of waiting for new funding, it was impossible to match the original stones!

Eventually, the Washington Monument was open for tours in 1884- complete with an Otis elevator – and for 127 years visitors either climbed the steps or rode the elevator for 12 minutes to the Observation Tower. In 2011 all this changed when a 6.9 earthquake centered in nearby Virginia caused colossal damage to the stones and elevator. The earthquake led to the closure of the Monument for 3 years for basic repairs.

In 2019 the Washington Monument completely reopened – after a state-of-the-art elevator was installed. The Park Service announced that free tickets (with a small booking fee) would be released daily for tours that included a two-minute ride up to the Observation Platform. In November 2020 after briefly reopening in May 2020, the Washington Monument was closed by the DC Mayor due to the shutdown for Covid19. We expect the Monument will be reopened at some point in 2021. Check the website often for details.

Remember that even during shutdown there are majestic views of the Mall and much of the city from the top of the hill at the base of the Monument’s elevator plaza. It is one of the best places to go in DC (and the entire DMV area) anytime of the day or night because it takes only 5 minutes to walk up the graceful sidewalk paths to observe the city below.

Washington DC Mall Map Near washington monument