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Washington Monument

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

WASHINGTON MONUMENT. Pierre L'Enfant's plan for the federal city called for an equestrian monument honoring George Washington at the key location where the axes of the Capitol and president's house intersected. The Washington National Monument Society, formed in 1833, raised funds for a design competition, but no plans realized their expectations. In 1845 Robert Mills suggested an obelisk with a colonnaded base. After many sites had been considered, the cornerstone was laid 4 July 1848, near the spot designated on L'Enfant's plan. In 1854 members of the Know-Nothing Party, angered by the donation of an interior stone by the Vatican, stole the stone and took over the society. The project came to a halt, remained unfinished through the Civil War, and


resumed only in 1876, when Congress took control of funding and construction. The monument was finally dedicated 21 February 1885. At 555 feet, 51⁄8 inches it was, and still is, the tallest masonry structure in the world. The obelisk has had its admirers and detractors, but many commentators have noted a congruence between the form of the monument and the man it commemorates: "simple in its grandeur, coldly bare of draperies theatric" (James Russell Lowell), "a perfect simulacrum of our first president … powerful … eternal … elemental" (Richard Hudnut).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, Thomas B. The Washington Monument: It Stands for All. New York: Discovery Books, 2000.

Harvey, Frederick L. History of the Washington National Monument and of the Washington National Monument Society. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1902.

Jeffrey F.Meyer

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Washington Monument

Washington Monument, obelisk-shaped tower, 555 ft 51/9 in. (169.3 m) high, located on a 106-acre (43-hectare) site at the west end of the Mall, Washington, D.C.; dedicated 1885. In 1783, Congress passed a resolution approving an equestrian statue of George Washington, and in 1791 architect Pierre L'Enfant included a site for the statue near the present location of the monument in his plans for the federal city. Washington, however, objected to the idea. After Washington's death in 1799, plans for a memorial were discussed but none was adopted until 1832, when the private Washington National Monument Society was formed. Its activity brought gifts of money as well as blocks of stone from each state, some foreign governments, and private individuals. These "tribute blocks" carry inscriptions on the inside walls of the monument. Architect Robert Mills's elaborate Greek temple design was accepted for the monument, and on July 4, 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Work on the project was interrupted by political quarreling in the 1850s; by the Civil War, funds became scarce. It was not until 1876 that Congress took over the project and appropriated money for the monument. The base, entirely different from Mills's design, was completed in 1880; the aluminum top was positioned in 1884; and the monument was opened to the public in 1888. The top may be reached by elevator; public access by the stairs is no longer permitted. The monument was closed while it underwent renovation from 1997 to 2000, security improvements from 2004 to 2005, and repairs of earthquake damage from 2011 to 2014.

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