Washington Monument Construction Timeline

September 26, 1833
The Washington National Monument Society is founded by Chief Justice John Marshall, who served as the first president of society; George Watterston, Librarian of Congress; and former president James Madison, who became president of the society after Marshall's death in 1835.

The Washington National Monument Society appoints bonded agents to collect funds from the general public for construction of a monument to George Washington. Individual donations were initially limited to $1 per person per year, and donors received a certificate acknowledging their donation.

November 18, 1845
The Washington National Monument Society selects a design for the monument by Robert Mills. A design for the Washington Monument by Robert Mills is formally adopted by the society. This original design called for a 600-foot tall obelisk with a nearly flat top, surrounded by a colonnaded rotunda 200-feet in diameter and 100-feet tall. Thirty 12-foot diameter columns formed a 'National Pantheon' with statues of 30 prominent Revolutionary War heroes and signers of the Declaration of Independence inside. The obelisk was crowned with a statue of Washington in a chariot. This building was estimated to cost $200,000 to complete.

January 31, 1848
Congress authorized the Washington National Monument Society to build their monument to George Washington on public grounds or a reservation within Washington, D,C.

April 11, 1848
Due to funding shortfalls, the Washington National Monument Society directs Mills to modify his original design for the monument, to initially build only the 500-foot tall obelisk, with a 55-foot square base and 35-foot square apex. The construction of a pantheon, terrace, or landscape would be addressed after the obelisk was completed.

July 4, 1848
The cornerstone of the monument is laid with great fanfare. Among the participants were President James K. Polk, the Cabinet, Congress military units, fire companies and marching bands. Within the 24,500 pound marble cornerstone was a zinc case filled with mementoes, including copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, coins and newspapers.

Fall 1854
By the end of the building season, the Washington Monument stood 152 feet tall and the Washington National Monument Society had exhausted all funds for the project.

A presidential order presidential order is issued "to use the Monument Grounds for Cattle belonging to the Government." The grounds of the incomplete monument were known as the Beef Depot, the Cattle Meadow, and the Washington National Monument Cattle Yard during the Civil War.

August 2, 1876
Congress appropriates $2 million in federal funds to complete the construction of the Washington Monument. The public funding is contingent upon the transfer of ownership of the monument from The Washington National Monument Society to the federal government.

July 1, 1878
Thomas Lincoln Casey is appointed as engineer-in-charge of the monument. He is authorized to hire, build temporary buildings, and prepare a project for strengthening the foundations to support a 525-foot tall shaft.

February 1880
Contractors begin installation of the staircase and elevator frames within the monument.

May 28, 1880
The strengthening of the monument’s foundation is completed.

August 7, 1880
A second cornerstone is set at the 150-foot level, marking the resumption of the construction of the shaft. Twenty-six feet would be added during the 1880 construction season.

An additional 76 feet is added to the monument, bringing it to 250 feet in height.

May 1, 1882
Construction resumes for the 1882 building season. Ninety feet would be added before the end of the season on December 19, bringing the total to 340 feet.

December 6, 1884
The capstone and aluminum point are set in to place at 2:17 p.m. marking the completion of the construction of the Washington Monument.

February 21, 1885
Dedication ceremonies for the Washington Monument.

June 26, 1886
Otis Brothers of New York City is contracted to convert the hoist that had been used to lift the stones into place into a passenger elevator, complete with seats and soft wall linings. The upgraded elevator was completed on December 20, 1886, and it took 10-12 minutes to ascend the monument.

October 9, 1888
The Washington Monument opens to the public.

1930's era Restoration
The Washington Monument undergoes its first major restoration (repointing, repair and cleaning).Photos

1960's era Restoration
The Washington Monument undergoes its second restoration (repointing, repair and cleaning). Photos

1990's era Restoration
The Washington Monument undergoes its third restoration (repointing, repair and cleaning). Photos

2001 Temporary Screening Facility Added to Monument
After the 9/11 attacks on the Nation's Capital, security was raised to new levels. A screening facility was added to protect the Monument and the visiting public.

2011 Earthquake
The Washington Monument was effected by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake.The study and repair after that are outlined HERE.

2016-2019 Elevator Modernization and screening facility replacement.
After many years in operation the elevator needed to be updated to operate more effectively and provide for a better visitor experience. The old screening facility was replaced with a new, more secure and more pleasant looking one.

Last updated: September 14, 2022

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