Washington, D.C. Sights

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Washington Monument

Washington Monument Review

This beloved landmark closed after a rare but powerful 2011 earthquake in Virginia sent tremors that rattled the mighty monument, leaving visible cracks and structural damage. Fortunately a billionaire history buff stepped forward with $7.5 million to match the National Park Service's $7.5 million budget for repairs. Reconstruction began in 2013 and was scheduled at this writing to last until 2014; but it wouldn't be unusual in Washington for there to be delays.

The 555-foot, 5-inch Washington Monument punctuates the capital like a huge exclamation point.

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.

Highlights

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.

When the monument reopens, an elevator will once again whiz to the top of the monument in 70 seconds—a trip that in 1888 took 12 minutes via steam-powered elevator. From the viewing stations 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.

Tips

You can still look down on D.C. at the Old Post Office Pavilion ([E]100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW at 12th St.) or the Washington National Cathedral's Pilgrim Observation Gallery ([E] Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves. NW).

When the monument reopens, it will use a free timed-ticket system for the elevator ride. A limited number of tickets will be available each day at the marble lodge on 15th Street. In spring and summer, lines are likely to start hours before the monument opens.

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).

    Contact Information

  • Address: 15th St. NW, between Constitution Ave. NW and Independence Ave. SW The Mall, Washington, DC 20024 | Map It
  • Phone: 202/426–6841; 877/444–6777 for advance tickets
  • Cost: Free; $1.50 service fee per advance ticket
  • Hours: Closed until 2014. On reopening, hours will be daily 9–5.
  • Website:
  • Metro Smithsonian.
  • Location: The Mall
Updated: 06-05-2013

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