5 Things You Didn't Know About The Washington Monument

On December 6, 1884, in Washington, D.C., workers place a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop a tower of white marble, completing the construction the Washington Monument. Here are 5 things you didn't know about this structure built as a tribute to George Washington...


Early Ideas For The Monument Included Greek Columns And A Tomb Though the monument's iconic and simple shape is easily recognizable now, the original design submitted by Robert Mills was an Egyptian-style obelisk, encircled by 30 columns that would each stand 100 feet tall. Other designs considered included a classical Greek column with a small statue of George Washington on top and a stand-alone statue of Washington on horseback. Still another idea would have required moving Washington's body to a tomb constructed for him in the Capitol Building, however his family was unwilling to allow his body to be moved from its resting place at Mount Vernon.

The Monument Was Briefly The World's Tallest Man-Made Structure It was a brief but glorious reign of five years when the 555-foot height of the Washington Monument surpassed the Cologne Cathedral to become the tallest building in the world. The title was short-lived when the completion of the Eiffel Tower took the title back to France in 1889. Despite the Washington Monument losing its title, it continues to hold other records such as the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk.


There Is A Lot Of Stuff Buried Under The Monument On the first day of construction of the Washington Monument, a zinc case containing a number of objects and documents was placed in the foundation.  Alongside copies of the Declaration of Independence are a map of the city of Washington, census data, poems, a collection of coins, a list of the Supreme Court justices, a Bible, among many other items.

The Washington Monument's Opening Was A Star-Studded Event Among the 20,000 Americans that were at the opening of the Washington Monument included several big-name guests. The guest list included then-President James K. Polk, three future president (Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan), former first lady Dolley Madison, Alexander Hamilton's widow Elizabeth Hamilton, and even a bald eagle.

The Washington Monument Was Damaged by an Earthquake in 2011 A 5.8 magnitude earthquake close to Mineral, Virginia, damaged the Washington Monument, causing some mortar to come loose and creating cracks in the obelisk. Fortunately, no one inside the building was injured, however. It was closed for 2 1/2 years to be repaired, which cost around $15 million. While the extensive repair work took place, the obelisk was shrouded in a blue mesh, which covered the enormous scaffolding system that was needed to do the repairs.