On October 8th, 1888 the Washington Monument was unveiled in Washington, DC as an obelisk dedicated to the legacy of President George Washington, the father of the United States and the very first Commander-in-Chief. During Washington’s lifetime, there many proposals for a monument, but Washington himself scoffed at them.
Early discussions of a monument officially around 1783, Congress began discussing a monument. Ten days after Washington’s death, Representative John Marshall (who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), made a proposal, but due to gridlock, it never got off the ground.
In 1832, what would the year of Washington’s 100th birthday, real progress began. An organization called the Washington National Monument Society was formed to begin raising money to fund the project. In 1836, they began a contest to find architects to design. They wrote of their intentions:
It is proposed that the contemplated monument shall be like him in whose honor it is to be constructed, unparalleled in the world, and commensurate with the gratitude, liberality, and patriotism of the people by whom it is to be erected … [It] should blend stupendousness with elegance, and be of such magnitude and beauty as to be an object of pride to the American people, and of admiration to all who see it. Its material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of marble and granite brought from each state, that each state may participate in the glory of contributing material as well as in funds to its construction.
Many architects put in submissions for a monument, but it was Robert Mills who would go on to win.
In 1848, construction would formally begin. However, the American Party, aka the “Know Nothing Party,” took over the society and halted construction. The Civil War would put a bigger delay on development.
Construction continued in 1879, 31 years later. The project had been taken over by US Army Corp of Engineers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey. Four years later it was completed, but it would not open officially until 1888.
At the ceremony, President Chester A. Arthur said in the dedication,
I do now …. in behalf of the people, receive this monument …. and declare it dedicated from this time forth to the immortal name and memory of George Washington.
My family visited Washington, DC in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, the monument was closed because it had recently sustained earthquake damage. We were only able to see the outside, but it was still magnificent. When you get a chance, be sure to take a trip to our capital and see it.
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