Written by Tadashi

Modified & Updated: 01 Jun 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

The Washington Monument in the twilight.

The Washington Monument is one of the most iconic symbols of the American nation, and a testament to over a hundred years of history. Now, here are 30 interesting facts about that wonder of architecture.

  1. The Washington Monument stands 169 meters tall.
  2. The monument’s surface area covers 43 hectares.
  3. The monument weighs 82,422 tons.
  4. An estimated 800,000 people visit the monument every year.
  5. The monument cost $1.41 million in the 19th century, or $30 million today.
  1. The old Confederation Congress first proposed the Washington Monument in 1783.
  2. The Washington National Monument Society began pushing for the monument in 1833.
  3. A public competition for the monument’s possible design began in 1836.
  4. Construction of the monument began in 1848.
  5. Lack of funds caused a brief stop in construction in 1854.
  6. The American Civil War caused a break in the monument’s construction.
  7. Construction of the monument resumed in 1879.
  8. The monument finally finished construction on December 6, 1884.
  9. Dedication of the monument took place on February 21, 1885.
  10. Public access to the monument’s interior began on October 9, 1888.
  1. The Washington Monument was the world’s tallest building until 1889.
  2. The monument is under the authority of the US National Park Service.
  3. Fifty American flags are flown around the monument’s base at all times.
  4. An observation deck stands on the monument’s top floor.
  5. Only a single elevator is in service at the monument.
Table of Contents

A nuclear weapons protester once threatened to blow up the Washington Monument.

This is a shocker from Washington Monument facts, but it’s quite true. In December 1982, Norman Mayer drove up to the monument in a van. He claimed the van was full of explosives, and he’d blow it up if his demands weren’t met. Police evacuated the area, but 8 tourists stayed trapped inside the monument. They left after Mayer negotiated with a journalist. Mayer later tried to escape, but the police shot him dead. Investigators later found the van to be empty. It turned out that Mayer had bluffed everybody about the explosives.

washington monument, washington monument facts
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Renovations for the Washington Monument happened between 1998 and 2001.

Those renovations include repairing, cleaning, and waterproofing the monument’s stonework. The renovators also placed glass panels over the stonework inside the monument to deter vandals. They also installed better windows in the observation deck on top of the monument. A museum dedicated to George Washington opened at the monument after the renovations finished.

The 2011 Virginia Earthquake damaged the Washington Monument.

This shouldn’t be a surprise from Washington Monument facts, given the earthquake’s size of 5.8. Engineers found 150 cracks in the monument afterward. The earthquake also broke off enough stone to produce a debris field. The monument closed for repairs, and reopened three years later in 2014.

The Washington Monument features no less than 194 memorial stones.

These memorials are on the walls for easy viewing of visitors to the monument. They come from a variety of sources, such as American states, foreign countries, and VIPs. One VIP is Sultan Abdul Mejid I of Turkey, who donated $30,000 for the monument’s construction. His memorial stone appears at the 190-feet level of the monument.

The Washington Monument is lightning-proof.

A lightning bolt splits the sky.
Photo by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

Here’s something interesting from Washington Monument facts. As high as the monument is, it has to be lightning-proof, as it draws lightning to itself. At first, the monument was a single lightning rod in itself, with its aluminum peak. A renovation in 1885 added 8 copper lightning rods around the monument’s peak. Those also got replaced in 2013 with 2 aluminum lightning rods.

Security upgrades appeared after the September 11 attacks.

This is only expected, considering how high-profile a target the Washington Monument is. The government set up a visitor screening center, with bomb and weapon detectors. Visitors received set times for when they could enter and exit the monument. The government also built a low wall around the monument to keep vehicles from getting close. Talk about a secure example of Washington Monument facts.

The Washington Monument’s original design was very different.

Now here’s something interesting from Washington Monument facts. The obelisk we now know as the Washington Monument was only supposed to be a centerpiece. In the original design, the monument looked like a temple with 30 pillars. It would also have included sculptures of the Declaration of Independence’s signatories. There was also supposed to be a sculpture of George Washington driving a chariot. The obelisk was also supposed to be taller, 183 meters instead of 169 meters.

Controversy hounded the Washington Monument when it was first proposed.

Today, it is natural to see and accept the monument as symbolic of American history. But this wasn’t always the case. In the late 1700s, many in the government opposed the earliest proposals for a monument. Some said it wasn’t appropriate for a republic to build monuments for any single man. Others like the Republican Party opposed it out of Washington’s ties to the Federalist Party.

There were plans for George Washington's tomb getting moved to the monument.

A portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
Photo from Wikipedia

It’s only natural, as the monument stands for his legacy. The proposal finally got dropped to respect his family’s reluctance to move his body. So instead, Washington remains buried in his grave at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

The Washington Monument’s cornerstone contains several memorabilia.

These memorabilia include copies of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Also included are a map of Washington D.C. and census information about the USA at the time.

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