December 6, 1884: the largest piece of aluminum in history up to that point is placed onto the Washington Monument, marking its completion. It wouldn’t be open to the public until October, four years later, but it was at this time that construction was finished. At the time of its completion it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, though it would be beaten by the Eiffel Tower in the years to come. The entire monument area spans across 106.01 acres and towers at an astonishing 555 feet over Washington DC. Anyone who has stood underneath it knows how it really embodies the adjective “towering.”

The monument under construction circa 1860 | Wikimedia Commons

Construction began as the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848. It was slow going, and wouldn’t be finished for over 30 years, taking a break during the Civil War and of course due to it simply being a difficult structure to build in that time. For example, finding enough stone in nearby quarries proved exceptionally difficult and other options had to be coordinated, resulting in infrequent deliveries of materials which slowed down progress.

The obelisk is dedicated to George Washington, hero of the Revolutionary war and the first president of the United States. He is a founding father that embodied many of the fundamental American principles the U.S. continues to strive toward today. When his time was up, he had the opportunity to take power and continue to rule, but he resigned like he said he would and the democratic process has been in full swing ever since. On this subject, Benjamin West, prolific British artist during the time of the American Revolution, had recently met with the King of England. West said that the even the King couldn’t help but think highly of Washington:

…that act closing and finishing what had gone before and viewed in connection with it, placed him in a light the most distinguished of any man living, and that he thought him the greatest character of the age.”