The 555-foot, 5-inch Washington Monument punctuates the capital like a huge exclamation point. And, it is now reopened after a three-year project to repair the damage caused in 2011 by a rare but powerful earthquake.
The monument was part of Pierre L'Enfant's plan for Washington, but his intended location proved to be marshy, so it was moved 100 yards southeast to firmer ground (a stone marker now indicates L'Enfant's original site). Construction began in 1848 and
continued, with interruptions, until 1884. Upon its completion, the monument was the world's tallest structure and weighed more than 81,000 tons.
Six years into construction, members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party stole and smashed a block of marble donated by Pope Pius IX. This action, combined with funding shortages and the onset of the Civil War, brought construction to a halt. After the war, building finally resumed, and though the new marble came from the same Maryland quarry as the old, it was taken from a different stratum with a slightly different shade.
193 memorial stones from countries, individuals, and societies around the world were inserted into the interior walls of the monument.
An elevator whizzes to the top of the monument in 70 seconds—a trip that in 1888 took 12 minutes via steam-powered elevator. From the observation deck at the top you can take in most of the District of Columbia, as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia—but not as far as Bristol, Virginia, the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake. After taking in the expansive views, walk a few steps down to the museum with exhibits on the history of the monument and for the two-minute elevator descent. All the while, park rangers are on hand to share anecodotes and answer questions.
The steps of the Lincoln Monument provide a glorious view of this beloved landmark.
All visitors ages two and older require a free, timed-ticket to go inside the monument and ride the elevator to the top. A limited number of tickets are distributed each day at 8:30 am, at the marble lodge on 15th Street. In spring and summer, lines are likely to start hours before the monument opens and tickets will run out. Your best bet is to reserve tickets as far in advance as possible. You can do this online or by calling the toll-free reservation line. There's a $1.50 service charge per ticket. Tickets can be picked up on the day of your tour from the will call window at the monument lodge.
Maps below viewing-station windows point out some of Washington's major buildings, but you might want to bring a more detailed map (available at the monument's bookstore).
15th St. NW, between Constitution Ave. NW and Independence Ave. SW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20024, United States
202-426–6841; 877-444–6777-for advance tickets