Nugget of Knowledge: Washington monument

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Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

After three years closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is open again.

The country was actually planning to build a memorial for George Washington before he died.

As early as 1783, when Washington was very much alive, the country made plans for putting up a very large statue of the first president on horseback near the Capitol building. We left open a place for it, almost exactly where the Washington Monument sits today.

After Washington died in 1799, Congress couldn’t agree on what kind of monument was best for our national hero. One original sketch called for a temple with 30 towering columns and a statue of Washington on a chariot, revolutionary war heroes around him. Congress said no — it too expensive.

Eventually, the government chose the monument we have today.

20,000 people crowded around to watch the laying of the cornerstone on the 4th of July, 1848. In that stone is a box meant never to be removed.

The time capsule contains copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, a portrait of Washington, an American flag, all the coins in circulation and newspapers from 14 states.

Finally, the top of the obelisk was a very precious and rare metal when it was finished in 1884 — pure aluminum — it would never tarnish.

In 1884, aluminum cost $1.10 per ounce or $26 per ounce in today’s dollars.

For five years, the monument was the world’s tallest manmade structure. Then the Eiffel tower went up — it’s 1,000 feet taller compared to the Washington monument’s 555.

The new elevator system will take 70 seconds to carry you to the 51 observation deck and you can see 25 miles in all directions on a clear day.

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