After suffering damage from an earthquake in August 2011, the Washington Monument, a tribute to the nation’s first president, reopened in 2014 after undergoing $15 million dollars worth of repairs to fix the cracks and loose mortar. While some might see it as the centerpiece in a city full of monuments, the Washington Monument’s history is as storied as the man who it was named after.
Washington Monument
2 15th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007

The monument was planned before Washington ever became President.

This is how much George Washington was admired: In 1783, the Continental Congress voted to erect a statue of George Washington who was, at the time, still the commander-in-chief of the American army. After he became President, Washington scrapped the plan due to lack of federal government funds. It wasn’t until his death in 1799, that other memorials were considered, including a mausoleum that would be built and held in the Capitol rotunda. After a small group of private citizens outside the government established the Washington National Monument Society in 1833, they set out to raise private funds for the construction. A design competition was held and architect Robert Mills’, who had also designed the U.S. Treasury Building and U.S. Patent Office, design was determined to be the winner.

Three different types of stones were used to complete the Washington Monument.

There’s a reason why the Washington Monument has three shades of grey marble. In his original plans, Mills stated that the monument’s “material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of marble and granite brought from each state, that each state may participate in the glory of contributing material as well as in funds to its construction.” This idea quickly flew out the window as the Washington National Monument Society accepted stones from Native American tribes, foreign countries, and professional firms in order to keep the costs down. Congress took over the project in 1876 and, with an appropriation fund of $2 million, gave the project to the Army Corps of Engineers for completion. At that point, unfortunately, the Maryland quarry stone they had used to start building the monument was no longer available, so stone was imported from Massachusetts. After several layers were added using this new stone, the builders were very unhappy with the color and quality — you can see the brownish colored stone to this day — and completed the remaining portion of the monument with stone from another quarry in Maryland.

The final product looked nothing like the original design. 

The current design for the Washington Monument is far more simple that what was originally intended. Robert Mills’ winning design was far more ornate and was to include a pantheon with thirty stone columns, statues of Declaration of Independence signers and Revolutionary War heroes. Part of the original design was to have a statue of George Washington driving a horse-drawn chariot above the main entrance with a 600-foot-tall Egyptian obelisk standing at the pantheon’s center; not exactly understated. With the start of the Civil War, construction was halted, but resumed in 1879 under orders from President Ulysses Grant. At this point, the architectural design was altered and the pantheon was removed leaving behind the obelisk.

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It was briefly the world’s tallest man-made structure.

When it opened to the public in 1888, the Washington Monument’s measurement of 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches high made it the world’s tallest man-made structure, surpassing the Cologne Cathedral.  This record was short-lived, however, as it was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower the following year in 1889.

The monument was once the site of a hostage situation.

While the Washington Monument is a symbol of a great man, it is not without its own tragic incidents, including a couple of suicides. One of the oddest incident to occur, happened on December 8, 1982 when Norman Mayer, a 66-year-old Navy veteran who wanted to draw attention to his stance against nuclear weapons, drove his van to the base of the monument and threatened to blow it up with 1,000 pounds of dynamite he claimed to have in his possession. After a ten-hour standoff, Mayer attempted to escape and was shot and killed by DC police. Subsequently, no explosives were found in his van.

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Originally from Bermuda, Christina Smart has more than 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry having worked for organizations including Universal Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, PolyGram and CBS Television. She’s been fortunate to work with a variety of artists including Elton John, U2, Sting, Phoenix, Mumford & Sons, Def Leppard, Ringo Starr, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, DMX and Salt ‘n Pepa. A graduate of The George Washington University (which she attended on a partial scholarship for drumming), Christina earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Radio/Television) with a Minor in Music.