Sunday, July 23, 2006


By W:. Patrick Bellotti, P.M.

There are many Masonic related points of interest located in or near our nation's capitol. Today I want to share some information of the Washington Monument. This was built to honor our first president and prominent mason - George Washington.

The construction of a monument to honor George Washington was first considered by the Continental Congress in 1783. At the time of his death, and during the next three decades, Congress neglected to take definite action on many additional proposals for the erection of a suitable memorial. In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was organized by influential citizens of the National Capital who undertook the building of a "great National Monument to the memory of Washington at the seat of the Federal Government."

The progress of the society was slow at first. By 1847, however, $87,000 (including interest) had been collected by popular subscription. A design submitted by Robert Mills, a well-known architect, was selected. It provided for a decorated obelisk 600 feet high which was to rise from a circular colonnaded building 100 feet high and 250 feet in diameter. This temple was to be an American pantheon, a repository for statues of Presidents and national heroes, containing a colossal statue of George Washington.

The original design, however, was greatly altered in the course of construction and the present monument - a hollow shaft without decoration or embellishment - has little in common with Mills' elaborate plan. The proportions of Mills' shaft, which were at variance with traditional dimensions of obelisks, were altered to conform to the classical conception, thus producing an obelisk that for grace and delicacy of outline is unexcelled by any in Egypt.

On July 4, 1848, the cornerstone was laid with elaborate Masonic ceremonies. The trowel used by Washington at the laying of the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793 was used on this occasion.

Work progressed favorably until 1854, when the building of the monument became involved in a political quarrel. Many citizens became dissatisfied with the work and the collection of funds lagged. This unfortunate affair and the growing antagonism between the North and South, which resulted in the Civil War, brought construction to a halt. For almost 25 years, the monument stood incomplete at the height of about 150 feet. Finally on August 2, 1876, President Grant approved an act which provided that the Federal Government should complete the erection of the monument. The Corps of Engineers of the War Department was placed in charge of the work.

In 1880, work was resumed on the shaft. The new Maryland marble with which the remainder of the monument is faced was secured from the same vein as the original stone used for the lower part. It came from a different stratum, however, which explains the "ring" noticeable on the shaft. The walls of the memorial reached 500 feet on August 9, 1884, and the capstone was set in place on the following December 6, marking the completion of the work. The monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and opened to the public on October 9, 1888.

The top may be reached by elevator or by an iron stairway. The first elevator was a steam hoist, used until 1901 when the first electric elevator was installed. The present elevator, installed in 1959, makes the ascent in 70 seconds. The iron stairway consists of 50 landings and 897 steps.
Inserted into the interior walls are 188 carved stones presented by individuals, societies, cities, States, and nations of the world.

The Monument in Statistics

Total cost: $1,187,710

Height of monument above floor: 555 feet 5 1/8 inches

Width at base of shaft: 55 feet 1 1/2 inches

Width at top of shaft: 34 feet 5 1/2 inches

Thickness of walls at base of shaft: 15 feet

Thickness of walls at top of shaft: 18 inches

Depth of foundation: 36 feet 10 inches

Weight of monument: 90,854 tons

Sway of monument in 30-mile-per-hour wind: 0.125 of an inch



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