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The Washington Monument

As I reported in a previous column, Mrs. Mary Shore gave me some items of historical interest. One was a copy of the dedication ceremony for the new Johnson County courthouse. Another item she gave me was a booklet on Washington D. C. that I found interesting.
My Johnson County High School class of 1956 recently held a reunion to mark 58 years since its graduation. The booklet and the reunion got me to thinking about our class’ trip to Washington, our nation’s capital city, and how exciting the trip was for me since I had traveled only short distances from Johnson County at that time. Johnson City and Bristol were the farthest I remember traveling in those days.
I’m sure many, most or perhaps all the readers of this column have been to Washington and I suppose they have enjoyed seeing the many monuments and memorials that have been built in that city. A list would include the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Archives Building, the White House and others. To me the most iconic of them all is the Washington Monument.

As seniors soon to graduate, we saw several of the sights of Washington, but what I remember most is the sheer beauty of that distinctive monument. Our trip to the monument was during daytime but I imagine that during the night the monument bathed in light is even more beautiful. I’ve seen it lighted only in pictures. There are reportedly 897 steps to the top but the steps have been closed to the public since 1976. If visitors want to go to the top, an elevator is available. The monument was closed to the public completely following damage caused by a 2011 earthquake. Extensive repairs were needed to make it safe for the public again. Closed for three years after the earthquake, the monument was reopened in May of 2014 after $15 million was spent on the repair project.

According to the National Park Service, the Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 as a tribute to George Washington’s military leadership from 1775 until 1783 during the American Revolution. The first phase was from 1848-1854 and the second phase was between 1876-84. Plans for the monument began before Washington’s death. The planning lagged until Washington’s death spurred renewed interest in completion of the project. In an elaborate ceremony in 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Fund raising was stalled at the outbreak of U. S. Civil War in 1861. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with completing the construction and the monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and officially opened to the public on October 9, 1888.

Robert Mills designed the monument, made of white marble and granite with metal supports. It was built at a cost of $1,187,710. It is 555 feet 5 1/8 inches tall. The width at its base is 55 feet 1 ½ inches. The foundation is 36 feet 10 inches deep.

It is truly a national treasure and I would like to see it again sometime.