The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument was the first memorial to be constructed in the nation's capital, and it's located at the center of the National Mall. Pierre Charles L'Enfant originally planned to erect a grand statue of George Washington on horseback. However, Congress failed to appropriate the necessary funds for the monument, and by the 1832 centennial of Washington's birth, a private society had been formed to raise funds for a national monument to the first president and Revolutionary War general.
The plans for an equestrian statue seemed too meager for this great man, and in 1845 a competition was sponsored to create something different. Robert Mills won the competition with his design for a Greco-Roman rotunda topped with an obelisk. It included a statuary group with Washington atop a chariot.
Fortunately for posterity, they couldn't raise enough money for this grand scheme, and only the obelisk was constructed. The cornerstone was laid in 1848, but the Civil War interfered and the monument wasn't dedicated until 1885, with various descendants of Washington present.
The monument is 555 feet and 5⅛ inches high and is the tallest masonry structure in the world. A federal law prohibits any building in D.C. from being higher than this monument. Years ago, you could climb the 897 steps to the top, but now you have to take the elevator up. However, you can still walk down with a park ranger guide at 10:30
The view from the top is spectacular, and the whole upper tier and the observation tower were recently renovated. There is a visitors' center inside, which offers videos and displays on the life of the president. The monument receives close to a million visitors a year and underwent a major exterior restoration in 2000.
You can pay tribute to other fallen heroes by visiting the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial commemorating federal, state, and local officers who have died in the line of duty. It is located between 4th and 5th Streets and E and F Streets; call 202-737-3400. The memorial is accessible from the Judiciary Square Red Line Metro station.
Location and Hours
The Washington Monument is located on the Mall, accessible from the Smithsonian Metro station (Orange or Blue Line). Open hours are from 8
You must have a ticket to get in to the monument, but tickets are free and you can get them at the ticket booth on 15th Street, at the bottom of the hill. Note that the booth opens at 8
You can also purchase tickets in advance by calling 1-877-444-6777 or on the Internet. The tickets are free, but there is a fee of $1.50 per person, with a 50-cent one-time processing fee.