The Completion of the Washington Monument
Each year on December 6, we celebrate the anniversary of the completion of the Washington Monument in 1884. The statue was designed in Baltimore by Robert Mills – believed to be the first native-born American to be professionally trained as an architect.
The structure includes materials from each of the 26 states that comprised the U.S. at the time of its construction, as well as commemorative stones from individuals, groups, cities, states, and countries that wanted to honor the memory of George Washington.
The obelisk (a stone pillar with a four-sided cross section and a pyramidal top), paid for by a combination of public donations and a project-saving appropriation from Congress, is located in formation with the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building.
... First in the Hearts of His Countrymen
The Washington Monument was inspired by the legacy of George Washington, who was hailed by most 19th-century American citizens as the pre-eminent military and political figure of his lifetime and of the early years of the United States' existence. He was the nation's first president following a long career as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
The monument, in the words of the Washington National Monument Society, is intended to inspire pride and awe:
"It is proposed that the contemplated monument shall be like him in whose honor it is to be constructed, unparalleled in the world, and commensurate with the gratitude, liberality, and patriotism of the people by whom it is to be erected ... [It] should blend stupendousness with elegance, and be of such magnitude and beauty as to be an object of pride to the American people, and of admiration to all who see it. Its material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of marble and granite brought from each state, that each state may participate in the glory of contributing material as well as in funds to its construction."
The Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world at the time of its construction (it was overtaken by the Eiffel Tower four years later), and is still the world's tallest obelisk.
The entire project spanned about 52 years, from 1833 when the Washington National Monument Society was formed to its dedication in 1885. Due to budget constraints, engineering problems, and the American Civil War, the monument turned out to be quite different from the original design.
On February 21, 1889, the Washington Monument's dedication ceremony took place. Several prominent political and public figures gave speeches that were followed by a military procession down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Estimates place the viewing crowd size for the dedication, not counting dignitaries and government officials, at around 800. In the time since, the Washington Monument's visitor draw has grown to more than 1 million annually.
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