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George Washington Monument History

The Washington Monument is a tall, white obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, George Washington. The monument, made of marble, granite, and sandstone, is both the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk in height standing 555 feet 5-1/2 inches (169.294 m). There are other monumental columns (which are neither all stone nor true obelisks) which are taller. It is also the tallest structure in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument was designed by Robert Mills, an architect of the 1840s. The actual construction of the monument began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884, almost 30 years after the architect's death. This hiatus in construction happened because of co-option by the "Know Nothing" party, a lack of funds, and the intervention of the American Civil War. At the time, the "American Party" (aka the "Know Nothings") stole what is now known as the "Pope's Stone" and allegedly dumped it into the Potowmac River; the whereabouts of the Pope Stone remains one the great architectural mysteries in history.

A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet (46 m) up, shows where construction was halted for a number of years. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848; the capstone was set on December 6, 1884, and the completed monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885. The Washington Monument officially opened October 9, 1888.

Upon completion, The Washington Monument became the world's tallest structure, a title previously held by the Cologne Cathedral. The monument held this designation until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris. The Washington Monument stands on axis directly to the east of the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial.

 
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