Opening Ceremony: Closed following the 2011 earthquake, the Washington Monument is re-opening today to some fanfare. Tourists and locals can once again get a bird’s eye view of the Washington Mall from the tallest building in the city.
Standing 555 feet, the Washington Monument is not only the tallest building in Washington, DC, it is also the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure. Around 800,000 people visit the monument each year.
Erected as a tribute to the first U.S. President, George Washington, the Washington Monument was built over a period of 36 years, from 1848-1884. There are 897 steps in the building and an elevator. For years visitors were allowed to walk up the stairs to the observation deck which provides a scenic view out of windows on each side of the pyradmidion. The stairs were closed several years ago and tourists now ride an elevator to the top floor.
In addition to being an historic site, the Washington Monument located at Constitution Ave. and 15th St. SW, has been the scene of significant newsworthy events. On December 8, 1982, 66 year old Navy veteran, Norman Mayer, drove his van to the base of the monument and threatened to blow up the building with pounds of dynamite that he claimed was inside his vehicle. During the 10 hours that he held police in a standoff, streets were shutdown; nearby buildings were evacuated; and a number of tourists remained trapped inside the monument. Mayor was shot and killed when he attempted to drive away. No explosives were found.
On August 23, 2011, the monument was damaged when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake emanating from Mineral, Virginia caused a number of cracks in the building. It has been closed for repair since then, but is scheduled to reopen at 10:00 AM today.
Visitors to the Washington Monument are required to have tickets. Same day tickets are free and may be obtained at the Washington Monument Lodge located on the 15th Street side of the monument, midway between Constitution and Independence Avenues. For additional information visit the Tour of DC link.