Thursday, August 4, 2016

View from above: inside the Washington Monument

One of the best parts of living in Washington is playing tourist in your own backyard. When the local chapter of the ICAA planned a tour into the Washington Monument last month I was quick to sign up!
I visited a number of years ago (see that post HERE) but as the view is unparalleled in our city of no views due to height restrictions I had to go.  FTR, I think our height restriction is admirable as it makes our city unique; you know where you are; DC!
 Begun in 1848 it still stands as the world's tallest stone structure.  Construction was halted in 1854  due to a lack of funds but when construction picked up 23 years later the original quarry had been destroyed in the civil war! This gives the Obelisk a distinctive waist 152 feet high where a different stone material picks up (or so the story goes).
Originally the monument was designed with a colonnade around the base by architect Robert Mills which was left out due to budget constraints much to his chagrin.  The terrible small wart of a modern entrance pavilion from 2001 would KILL him I'm sure.  

The cost to build the monument was set at just over $1 million dollars or the 2015 equivalent of around $620,800,000! We wonder why we don't build "like we used to" but who is prepared to spend that kind of money? Now lets go up!
Directly inside is a bronze plaque of Washington with Masonic symbols.  Much of the original funding for the memorial came from the FreeMasons and they even laid the cornerstone (Washington was an active Mason).

The ground floor contains a small elevator vestibule with beautiful marble mosaics. The elevator has been in place since construction.  It was originally used to carry building materials to the top.  I love the paneled brass doors.
'First in War, First in Peace'.
The 360 degree views are spectacular. Lets start with the capitol building (below) and work clockwise.
We had planned on being on top for sunset but unfortunately the timing didn't work out with getting through security (one must get tickets months in advance!). We still enjoyed the city lights however. 

Below facing south is the WWII memorial and beyond the Lincoln memorial with the Memorial bridge at an angle crossing the Potomac River into Arlington Cemetery.
The bright light below towards the upper left hand corner is the Kennedy Center on the river with Paul Cret's Pan American building in the foreground.
Lastly, below is the White House (center of the photo) with the Ellipse in the foreground and the Department of the Treasury just to the right (very white light).
If you've ever wondered about the flashing bright red lights near the top to warn airplanes they're just as visible from the interior.
The interior of the monument is lined with 174 memorial stones donated by a number of different sources. On your elevator descent the guide will point a number of them out to you through windows.
 They range in size as well as material.
 Some are just plain odd
 While others have beautiful carving.
Free timed tours are available through the park service HERE. I highly recommend a sunset or nighttime view!
Another nearby spot with great views is the POV restaurant/bar on top of the W hotel (Formerly the Hotel Washington)- great for a nightcap after your monument tour and designed by Carrere and Hastings to boot! Photo of the Treasury and the White house taken from that rooftop.
Photos are a mixture of my friend, Architect Erich Stanley, and my own iphone snapshots; Thanks for sharing Erich!


Coulda shoulda woulda said...

I can't get over how much that amount is in modern money! I think monuments did mean more to the populace back then and nowadays it would help towards paying off the national debt?!

Jeff Freeland said...

how discreet of Baltimore not to put its own, first in the country, Washington Monument in their bas relief. Just the modest War of 1812 Monument. Way to be classy, as always, B-more.

Chronica Domus said...

D.C. is such a beautiful city and a big part of the appeal is not having towering buildings here there and everywhere. SF is so built up now and it is unbelievable to see how high the builders dare to go. Scary too as I just read about the tallest (new) building in the city which has started to sink.

Thanks for the tour of a monument I was unable to tour when I visited the city several years ago.

M. Denise C. said...

Wonderful post!! I went up during the day previously, but would love to go on a nighttime tour to see the monuments lit . . . Cheers, MDC