Standing on the National Mall in Washington D.C. at Constitution Avenue and 15th Street SW on the north side of the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument is over 555 feet tall. The towering structure's walls are 15 feet thick at the base but dwindle to 18 inches of thickness at the uppermost section. The walls are made from white marble and rest on a granite base with iron beams for support. The building weighs around 90,854 tons. The foundation goes down more than 36 feet into the ground below the structure.
Visitors can ride an elevator to the top of the structure to the observation level where windows allow for a panoramic view of the nation's capital city. The ascent in elevator is said to take 70 seconds. Interior walls along the stairs are lined with 192 carvings donated by nations, states, organizations and individuals as gifts. Climbing the 897 stairs is no longer permitted. The fastest recorded ascent of the stairs however, was 6.7 minutes; this record was set in 2005.
The Washington Monument was built to honor the nation's first President and Revolutionary War General, George Washington. Construction occurred between 1848 and 1884. Practically speaking, almost no work occurred between 1856 and 1876 due to the Civil War and insufficient funds.
The giant obelisk was inaugurated in early 1885 although it was not until 1888 that it opened its doors to the public. The original design included a series of pillars at the base, statues of each of the founding fathers and a towering statue of Washington with a structure resembling the monument that stands today at the center.
The monument is the tallest masonry structure built to date on the Earth. When it was first erected it was the tallest structure but that title was quickly taken away with the completion of the Eifel Tower in France.
From 1996 to 2000 the monument was restored at a cost of some $5 million in private donations.
The building is usually open from 9AM to 4:45 PM. Tickets are free for same day visits at the kiosk at 15th Street and Jefferson Dr., just down the slope from the Washington Monument. The kiosk is open from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Tickets are available on a first come first serve basis. They can also be purchased in advance. The monument is run by the National Parks Service and it is open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas Day.
The Smithsonian Metro station is the closest Metrorail stop to the monument; however various other stops are also in easy walking distance. As parking is very restricted and parking garages are costly in the downtown area of this city it is highly recommended to use the Metro and public bus system to visit the monument and other downtown sites in the District of Columbia.