One of the most iconic landmarks of D.C. (and all of America) is the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument is an obelisk built to commemorate George Washington the first President of the United States. It is located just east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Today it is D.C.'s centerpiece and is open to the public. It is certainly one of D.C's best free things to do. From here one can get a bird's eye view of the capital from the Washington Monument.

Purpose of The Monument And What it Is

George Washington is recognized as a military and political hero of the nation and the founding of the United States. He set the standard for each president that has succeeded him and demonstrated that could be a peaceful transfer of power to the next president.

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Built in the shape of the famous Egyptian obelisks, the monument evokes the timelessness of ancient civilizations. According to the National Park Service the Washington Monument: "embodies the awe, respect, and gratitude the nation felt for its most essential Founding Father."

  • Constructed Of: Granite, Marble, and Bluestone Gneiss

When it was first built it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, today it remains the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk. It took the title of the tallest structure in 1884 from the previously tallest building - the Cologne Cathedral in Germany (that you can also visit), before losing it again in 1889 to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

  • Height: 554 Feet or 169 Meters

Related: 10 Things You Need To See During Your Trip To Washington D.C.

Construction of The Monument

Construction began in 1848 but had a 23-year hiatus from 1854 to 1877 due to the lack of funds, an internal struggle, and the fallout of the American Civil War.

  • Built: From 1854 to 1888

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When the cornerstone was first laid on July 4, 1848, there were over 20,000 people in attendance including President James K. Polk and future presidents Buchanan, Lincoln, and Johnson.

By the time the project was restarted the initial quarry near Baltimore was no longer available after so many years of quarrying. They were forced to use the marble from a quarry in Massachusetts. But there were problems with the quality and color of the stone as well as the irregularity of the deliveries.

Soon they had to find a third source of stone - this time from a quarry near Baltimore. The quarry from here proved to be better and it was used to complete the remaining third of the monument.

  • Quarries: Made From The Stone Of Three Quarries

The color of the stone never matched exactly and three slightly different colors are visible today. The stone from the second quarry has left a brown-streaked beltline one-third of the way up the monument.

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The original design was rather different from what was eventually built. It was originally designed to be 600 feet high (not 555 feet) and was planned to have ornate adornments on the obelisk as well as a ring of columns around it. These plans were scrapped in favor of the simple but stark look of the obelisk seen today.

  • Inscription: Inscribed on The Aluminum Cap Are Notable Names and Dates, As well as The Latin Words "Laus Deo" ("Praise be to God")

In 2011 an earthquake caused slight damage to the monument causing it to be closed until 2014. It was closed again for elevator repairs, security upgrades, and other work from 2016 but reopened once again in 2019.

Related: 10 Museums In Washington D.C. Every History Buff Should Visit

Visiting The Washington Monument

If one is planning to visit the monument, timed tickets are required to ride up the elevator to the 500-foot high observation deck. Tickets for the Washington Monument are currently available only online from recreation.gov (1-877-444-6777).

The Washington Monument is hollow and there is an elevator inside as well as spiral iron stairs.

  • Opening Hours: Open Daily From 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
  • Closed: December 25, Christmas Day, and July 4, Independence Day.
  • Tours Of Washington Monument: Tours Have Resumed as of August 29, 2021
  • Walk-in Reservations: Currently Not Available

Note: The Monument Closes Daily From 1.00 pm to 2.00 pm for Cleaning

One should plan ahead - but not too much ahead! The tickets become available daily at 10.00 am for the next day's visit. An individual may reserve a maximum of 6 tickets a day and every visitor over the age of two must have a ticket.

Be quick as the demand is extremely high and all tickets for the day are typically gone within minutes.

From the observation deck, one can see for almost 25 miles in every direction. Many famous Washington Landmarks are visible like U.S. Capitol, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Washington National Cathedral.

The Washington Monument is maintained by the National Park Service. The monument is most easily accessed by taking the Metro - the two closest stops are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, both on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines.

Next: Visiting Washington D.C.? Consider These Neighborhoods First