October 9, 1888: The Washington Monument officially opens to the public. George Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia. He was a farmer and surveyor. At his brother’s death he took over the duties of adjutant for the colony. He was appointed as a Major in the Virginia Militia at age 20. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the French and Indian Wars (Seven Years War) and learned many valuable lessons. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758. He remained mostly interested in his estates at Mount Vernon. What proved to be the impetus for his political involvement was the passage of the Intolerable Acts of 1774.
Washington participated in the First Virginia Convention and was sent as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Fighting began in April 1775. Washington came to the Second Continental Congress dressed in his military uniform, signaling his willingness to fight. The Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. John Adams nominated Washington as Commander-in-chief the next day. He was elected and assumed control in July 1775. The Revolutionary War ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The United States of America was now free of British rule.
Washington retired to Mount Vernon after the war. He reluctantly attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and was unanimously elected president of the convention. The Electoral College was created as an intermediate step in the election process. Washington was elected the first President of the US with 100% of the Electoral College votes, the only man to ever reach that level of approval. His two terms as President helped to define both the Office and the Nation. He is known as the “Father of His Country.”
The idea for a national memorial began even as Washington was the sitting president. Finally, 100 years after his birth, enough funds were collected to truly begin. Building began in 1848 but funds ran out in 1854. Controversy over funding and the Civil War delayed construction. The obelisk was completed on December 6, 1884 and officially dedicated on February 22 (Washington’s birthday) in 1885. It was officially opened to the public on this day. Tickets are needed to enter but admission is free. The monument stands 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches tall. It changes color part way up due to the delay in construction.
“A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.”
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – all from George Washington
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: When the Washington Monument was completed, it took over as the tallest structure in the world, previously held by the Cologne Cathedral. It remained the tallest structure until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower took top billing. The monument stands east of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service is in charge of the structure. The Washington Monument was damaged in the earthquake of August 23, 2011 and further damaged by Hurricane Irene later that year. It is being repaired and is currently not open to the public. Scheduled repairs should be completed by 2014. Part of the reason for the delay is the difficulty with constructing scaffolding to effect the repairs. A portion of the plaza needed to be removed in order to erect the scaffolding, which caused more delays.