Giant Jenga stack?
Closed until 2019
Building the Washington Monument was not an easy task. At the time, it would be the tallest building in the world at 555 feet. Built to honor George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States, the monument still holds the title of world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk. The way it was constructed equates to it being considered the world’s largest blocked stacked Jenga tower.
The structure was originally designed by Robert Mills, with construction beginning in 1848. The combination of the Civil War, the Know Nothing Party’s rise to control of the Washington National Monument Society through an illegal election and lack of funding led to a halt in construction in 1854. When construction resumed in 1879, marble was used from a different quarry, and time and weather erosion have led to the difference in color, which begins at the 150-foot mark.
The monument was finally completed in 1884 by Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an elevator was added to the monument in 1889.
From August 17, 2017 through 2019, the Washington Monument is closed. Businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein pledged the funding needed for the National Park Service to modernize the Washington Monument elevator. The $2-3 million project will correct the elevator’s ongoing mechanical, electrical and computer issues.
“The monument has become a symbol of our country, and reminds everyone of the towering strengths of our first president,” said Rubenstein. “I am honored to help make this symbol safely accessible again to all Americans as soon as practicable.”
Rubenstein’s “patriotic philanthropy” benefitting the National Park Service makes him a leader in the incredible legacy of private support for national parks:
- January 2012 – $7.5 million to restore the Washington Monument after the earthquake
- July 2014 – $12.35 million to restore Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
- September 2014 – $5 million endowment for the White House Visitor Center
- April 2015 – $5.37 million to improve the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
- February 2016 – $18.5 million to restore the Lincoln Memorial
- April 2016 – $1 million to fund critical repairs to Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
The first monument honoring George Washington is in Mount Vernon. In 1815, the statue was designed by Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., with construction completed in 1829. Its 178-foot Doric column holds a ground-floor museum offering information about Washington as well as the monument’s construction.
Fascinating secrets and mysteries of the Washington Monument
If you don’t want to take the elevator, be prepared to walk up 896 steps to the top.
It was crafted with freestanding masonry, so there is no cement holding those blocks together.
Buried in the cornerstone is a type of ‘time capsule’ containing a Bible, newspapers, copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, maps, reference books, census records, poems, coins, magazines, daguerreotypes (including one of Washington), and other relics. But there’s a catch to retrieving it. First, we’d have to identify which cornerstone it is. Then we’d have to safely secure it to open the cornerstone without knocking down the monument.
A true melting-pot, donated stones from around the world were incorporated into the monument. These stones and bricks were made from various material sources. Some include native copper block from Michigan and the petrified wood brick from Arizona.
The blocks/bricks often came inscribed. Some of the more unusual inscriptions include the stone brick from Wales, donated by the Welsh people of New York, with “Fy Iaith, Fy Ngwlad, Fy Nghenedl, Cymry am byth (or ‘Our language, our country, our birthplace, Wales forever’) written on it.
There is a stone with inscriptions from famous calligraphers, donated by the Ottoman government.
A brick from the Templars of Honor and Temperance states, “We will not make, buy, sell, or use as a beverage, any spiritous or malt liquors, Wine, Cider, or any other Alcoholic Liquor.”
There is also a stone from the “State of Deseret,” the name of Utah before it became a state.