The Washington Monument
"A stalk of Asparagus"
The Washington Monument is a tall (555' feet) "obelisk" structure surrounded by a ring of fifty flags that can be seen from much of DC, when the view is not blocked by other buildings. As a landmark it is known the world over as a specifically District of Columbia structure, appearing in TV shows and movies as an image to flash on the screen quickly in order to visually inform the viewer that the story is "now in Washington DC."
At one time it was the tallest standing structure in the world before being overtaken by the Eiffel Tower (1,063' feet tall). In the 21st century there are taller radio towers in the DC area, but because of the height limitations put on buildings within the District, the Washington Monument remains the tallest structure. (The high point in DC is the National Cathedral which has spires reaching to 301' feet, but because the Cathedral is built on the 400' foot tall Mount St. Albans.)
A number of original proposals for the monument were significantly larger and more grandiose, but the nature of the ground along the Potomac is not suited for heavy structures, and in fact the originally intended site (see the map, scroll below) had to be shifted slightly because of the unstable ground.
Original design for the Washington Monument
Library of Congress Collection
"The Washington National Monument, in the city of Washington base of the Pantheon,
250 feet diameter. Height, 100 feet. Height of obelisk, 500 feet.
The loftiest monument on earth to a nation's greatest benefactor.
The tribute of a grateful people to 'The Father of his Country'
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-25538"
Henry Robinson proposal for Washington Monument, 1877
Library of Congress - Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-31446
Comparison Map 1792/today
Amazon Shopping LinksA History Lover's Guide to Washington, D.C.: Designed for Democracy (History & Guide)
Original photos and page 2007 | Last update September 2021