The Tallest Structure in Washington DC

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stvchin on October 10, 2009

The Washington Monument is an obelisk commemorating our first President, George Washington. It sits at the intersection of Constitution Ave and 15th Street NW, just south of the Ellipse and the White House. As it’s the tallest structure in Washington DC, it’s very hard to miss.

The Washington Monument is a 555 foot and 5 1/8 inch tall obelisk made of granite, marble, and sandstone. The pointed top cap of the Washington Monument is a large singular piece of cast aluminum. It’s located atop a small hill, which offers great views of the National Mall. On the east side of the hill is a small guardhouse manned by the National Park Service. You can obtain the free, same-day tickets required for entry into the Washington Monument at this guardhouse. The tickets are for specific entry times, and are given away on a first come, first serve basis. The tickets are very popular and run out quickly, as we were unable to obtain any tickets on several visits to the guardhouse. The tickets allow entry into the Washington Monument, where one can climb up a set of stairs to an elevator, which takes you up the rest of the way to the top, where you can peer out of the windows in the top.

At the top of the hill, the Washington Monument is surrounded by circular concrete apron and a ring of flags. A lot of people were milling around, some with tickets awaiting entry into the Washington Monument, and others resting and taking in the view of the Monument and the city below. There’s another guardhouse attached to the east side of the monument that serves as a National Park Service Ranger station. The Rangers are very knowledgeable about the Washington Monument and are welcome to questions as well as history lessons about the Monument.

The Rangers told us the Washington Monument started construction in 1848, but stopped in 1854, because donation money had run out. Then the Civil War occurred, further complicating efforts to restart construction. Finally in 1879, construction resumed, and was completed in December of 1884. The Washington Monument was dedicated on George Washington’s birthday on February 22, 1885. As a result of the stalled construction, the white marble exterior is one shade from the bottom to about 152 feet up, and a different shade after that to the top. The differences in shade are due to using different quarries to mine the marble.

When standing at the base of the Washington Monument, the view is really good from here, and one can easily spend a lot of time taking pictures, or just taking in the different points of interest as far as the eye can see. To the north, you can make out the White House through the trees. To the west, you can see the National World War II Monument, the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Monument beyond. To the east, you can see the straight line of the National Mall, and the U.S. Capitol Building in the far distance. We visited in the early evening, when it started to cool down, and it made for great views too. The Washington Monument is one of those "must-see" attractions that’s definitely worth visiting.
Washington Monument
Near the Center of the National Mall
Washington, D.C., 20024
(202) 426-6841

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