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 and security improvements from 2004 to 2005, and was closed indefinitely in 2011 as a result of damage caused by an earthquake.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.