The Washington Monument honors and preserves the legacy of George Washington. Together, Robert Mills, Thomas Casey, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed to create the Washington Monument in two construction phases. The first construction phase was private and occurred between 1848 and 1854. The second construction phase was public and occurred from 1876 to 1884. When the Washington Monument was officially completed in 1884, its 555 feet and 5-1/8 inches height was regarded as the world’s tallest building.
The first person to draft designs for the Washington Monument was Pierre L’Enfant. L’Enfant designed the Washington Monument in a way that evoked a sense of honor and had a prominent open space area. The Egyptian obelisk design demonstrates the classic architectural style similar to ancient civilizations that honored pride, achievement, gratitude, and respect.
After plans for the Washington Monument were approved, a private organization formed. This organization was called the Washington National Monument Society. The Society sought out to raise enough funds to carry out the necessary construction and maintenance needed for the new monument. Although the Society was initially founded after seeing L’Enfant’s designs, the Society decided to go with Robert Mills’ purer design of an Egyptian obelisk in 1845.
Three years after settling on Mills’ design, the Society raised enough funds to begin construction. On July 4, 1848, 20,000 people attended a ceremony in which the first cornerstone was placed. Since the deign was intricate and ambitious, construction only reached 156 feet six years after the initial cornerstone was placed.
One year prior to achieving a height of 156 feet, the Washington National Monument Society lost control of their administration and was eventually declared bankrupt one year later. Since there were no funds for the Monument, construction stopped. One year later, in 1855, Robert Mills passed away. Between Mills’ passing and the lack of funds, the monument remained at its current height for two decades.
On July 5, 1876, Congress passed a joint resolution that funded the Washington Monument, thus resuming construction. Lt. Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, oversaw the remaining construction. Although Mills’ initial design plans entailed the Washington Monument reach 600 feet tall, Casey made modifications that made the Monument’s base large, thus the height smaller.
On February 21, 1885, which was one day prior to George Washington’s birthday, the Washington Monument was dedicated to Washington. One year later, the interior iron staircase was finished, so the Washington Monument was open to the public. Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. - Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia