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The Washington Monument

You can spot this white needle sticking up from the ground from a good distance from DC. At night it glows from the many lights on it with blinking red lights at the top that look like eyes opening and closing, winking at airplanes (which are abundant, flying over the Potomac River to Reagan National Airport, day and night).

A landmark that is frequently either under repair or being cleaned, so don't be surprised when you see scaffolding wrapped around it for workmen to safely minister to the surface, or engineers figuring out how to repair whatever damage may have been done by the infrequent earthquakes that rock the area.

"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

Washington Monument Original Design Library of Congress

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

Henry Robinson 1877 proposal Washington Monument

Washington Monument at night viewed close to the base

Washington Monument at night viewed close to the base

Washington Monument at Night
Washington Monument at night tree shrouded

Comparison Map 1792/today

Comparison Map Washington DC monument 1792 to today

Washington Monument July 2013

Washington Monument from 14th Street Arlington Business District in the distance across the Potomac

Washington Monument from 14th Street Arlington Business DIstrict in the distance across the Potomac

American Flags aloft at night near the Washington Monument Photo by Erik Weems

American Flags aloft at night near the Washington Monument

Farragut Square Washington DC Photos

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Original photos and page 2007 | Last update September 25, 2022