President Washington finally gets a monument…on this day

Washington Monument, from above (Diana Bowen, National Park Service)

It may have taken 100 years, but the first U.S. president, George Washington, finally got a monument in his honor on October 9, 1888. That’s when the Washington Monument, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the U.S. capital, officially opened to the public.

Plans to honor the man known as the father of his country began even before Washington became president. In 1783, Congress voted to erect a statue of Washington as a tribute to his leadership during the American Revolution. But the plans were shelved because of funding and other problems.

Washington Monument at sunrise (AP Images)
The Washington Monument gleaming in the reflecting pool at sunrise (AP Images)

The idea regained momentum in 1833 when a group of citizens joined together to fund a monument “unparalleled in the world.” They envisioned a structure “of such magnitude and beauty as to be an object of pride to the American people, and of admiration to all who see it.” Construction began in 1848 and was completed in 1884.

The Washington Monument was built in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk. It is composed of 36,000 pieces of marble and granite weighing more than 73 million kilograms. Its base is encircled by 50 American flags representing the 50 states.

View from Washington Monument observation deck (AP Images)
View of the White House and northern Washington from the observation deck of the Washington Monument (AP Images)

At 555 feet (170 meters), the Washington Monument was the world’s tallest man-made structure until surpassed by the Eiffel Tower in 1889. It remains the tallest stone structure in the world and the tallest building in Washington.

Over a million people from around the globe visit the Washington Monument each year. Visitors can take an elevator up to the observation deck, which offers an aerial view of the White House and the National Mall.