A photo of the towering Washington Monument, taken from the nearby Jefferson Memorial. It takes the form of an obelisk, a structure most notably associated with ancient Egypt. The originals, usually made entirely of stone, became popular as spoils of war and have been looted by a number of European powers, beginning in ancient times (there are six still found in the city of Rome). This one, a modern reinterpretation of its ancient forbearers, is located on the National Mall. It's made of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. Despite its age, it is still currently the world's tallest stone structure and the tallest obelisk, at 555 feet. It's one of the older monuments in Washington, as it was begun in 1848, but work was halted from 1854-1877. It was finally completed in 1884. Traces of the interruption are still visible in the shading of the marble, visible 150 feet (27%) up. The original design was conceived by Robert Mills, but it was later altered. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848 and it was dedicated on Feb. 21, 1885. The monument officially opened in 1888. Now, more than 800,000 people make their way to the top each year. It held its place of prominence as the world's tallest structure until 1889 upon completion of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
There hasn't been too much drama associated with this monument, at least in recent times. A possible exception occurred in Deccember, 1982, when eight tourists were held hostage here by a nuclear arms protestor who claimed to have explosives in a van he left at the base (it was later discovered that he didn't). The surrounding grounds were altered somewhat after the incident to restrict the approach of motor vehicles. The monument underwent restoration between 1998 and 2001, which involved cleaning, repairing and restoration of the interior and exterior stone work, and the interior spaces were enclosed in glass to ward off vandals. It certainly appears different now than it did just a few years ago, as it was heavily damaged during a freak earthquake in 2011, which was centered in Virginia. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the monument's exterior had been significantly damaged, with more than 150 cracks discovered, along with large pieces of stone which littered the interior of the memorial. One of the largest cracks in the west face was an inch wide and four feet long. The elevator was also damaged. Initially it was announced that the memorial would be closed indefinitely, but it didn't appear in imminent danger of collapse, so efforts were made to repair it. Repairs cost an estimated $15 million, half of which was paid for by taxpayers. Security efforts were also bolstered, so visitors now pass through a screening area. Hurricane Irene struck later that same year, delaying restoration efforts, so it remained closed to the public for quite a while, but it finally reopened in May, 2014. I think a fair bit of effort went into scaffolding design here: it still appears quite appealing. The scaffolding used during the initial restoration was designed by Michael Graves, and it appears very similar to what is being used currently. I thought it made an interesting TE contribution as its present appearance will only be visible for a relatively short window of time, considering its history.
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