Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Washington Monument

On Sunday Rob and I set off very early and headed down to DC to get in line for tickets to visit the DC Monument. I'd tried to book them online but there were none available and so our only chance of getting to see the magnificent views of the district from above was to stand in line and hope that we could get on an early tour. Tickets are free and are handed out first come, first serve. We were behind two other guys, and knowing that each person is allowed 6 tickets, I was really hoping that we would still get on the first tour.
Our early morning view of the monument which is a tribute to the military service of George Washington and the ideals of the nation that he helped to build. It's taller than any other building in Washington DC.
We started chatting with our queue buddies and found out that they were from New Jersey and Oregon. We found plenty to talk about and thankfully, the hours ticked by relatively quickly, even though I was acutely aware that I was slowly freezing and getting stiffer and stiffer. The cold was permeating from the glacial granite beneath me up into my feet. We were eventually handed our tickets and made our way up to the monument where we stood in another line. This time we weren't sheltered by a building, and standing on top of a hill, we were soon frozen to the core. We were also made to wait longer because of elevator issues.
Thanks to, in my opinion, one of the best park employees ever, we were entertained and made to laugh by Richard Ayad, shown above with Rob. He was a Superstar of the Highest Order, not showing any awareness of the icy conditions at all, but walked up and down engaging folks in conversation and funny quips. With a constant smile on his face, this guy was a life saver, and had me laughing out loud more than once, I loved him.
Finally we were allowed inside to embrace the wonderful warm heating, and then passed through a scanner. My fingers were frozen so I wasn't able to operate my camera well on the ground floor, hence few photos.
This was the mosaic flooring as we walked to the elevator, and once inside we were whisked up to the top in 70 seconds without barely feeling any movement. Of course as soon as we stepped out onto the floor, there was a rush for the windows. I'd been told that photos wouldn't be that successful due to the thickness of the windows and that they'd also be cloudy, but this wasn't the case. Indeed they were thick, but I can only assume that they'd been replaced as it wasn't too difficult to take a photo through them. There were also large heat fans standing on the floor which were attracting a lot of attention.
The 'zoomed' views in each direction, showing a rarely seen perspective of the Jefferson Memorial and its reflection, the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, empty for its annual cleaning, the White House and The Ellipse, which from here looked to be in terrible condition, and then the National Mall, some of which has been ripped up to start building the proposed Eisenhower Memorial.
Looking directly upwards I could see the raw cut stones forming the cap of the monument, angled at 70 degrees. Apparently in the photo above, immediately above the white horizontal piece is the square black cap, on which the apex sits.
Building began in 1848 but in 1854 at the height of 150ft funds ran low and building ceased. A bright white marble from a Maryland quarry had been used but when work resumed in 1879 the stone couldn't be matched although at the time they did look very similar. But since completion in 1888 environmental elements have contributed to the changes in color becoming more pronounced.
A moment during the Civil War with the uncompleted Washington Monument in the background.
 The final piece.The engineers setting in the apex on 12/6/1884 while a crowd cheered. Inscribed on the aluminum cap are the words, 5.125"h, 'Laus Deo', meaning Praise be to God. This apex was also at the time the world's largest piece of aluminum, chosen because it wouldn't tarnish and discolor the stones below it.
The Washington Monument was the world’s tallest monument for one year until the Eiffel Tower was built. It is still the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk
 The monument's lightning protection, first installed in 1885 and most recently replaced in 2012 have been hit a few times, resulting in bends and burns,
 The WAVES, women naval volunteers in WWII, celebrating their second anniversary in 1944.
As we descended in the elevator, we stopped twice, with lights dimmed, to view the 193 stone tributes set in the walls lining the stairwell. The theme was 'Out of many, one', and donations were asked, resulting in states, cities, countries and civic groups sending stones that illustrated stories.
A catalog of the stones is here.
Someone asked why we weren't allowed to use the stairs any longer. We were told it was due to people touching the stones and wearing them down, but I believe this response is closer to the truth.
Apparently too, if you have your heart set on walking it, walk-down tours are twice offered daily based on the availability of National Park Rangers, at 10:30 a.m. and Noon. But I'm not sure if that still applies.
Posing next to this massive structure. I didn't want to lean against those cold stones, the frigid air was already biting again!
More views from ground level, and also showing the 50 flags surrounding the monument, a flag for each state. While at the top, I'd also taken panoramas in each direction, these are below.
15 facts you may not know about the Washington Monument, click here.
Other interesting points include the fact that it was once held hostage. 12/8/1982, a 66 year old Navy veteran parked his van at the base of the monument and threatened to blow it up. He allowed visitirs trapped inside to leave, wanting only to draw attention against nuclear weapons. All of nearby DC was evacuated and closed down for about 10 hours. He tried to drive away but was shot dead by police who found no explosives inside the van.
The monument also survived a 5.8 earthquake on 8/23/2011 suffering cracks in its structure with some pieces falling down. It was closed until May 2015 with the repairs costing over $15 million.
We walked to the car to drive in search of hot food, not having had any breakfast that morning, and I looked back up at this pillar which dominates the DC skyline.
At the dedication of the Washington Monument on 2/21/1885, Senator John Sherman said, "It is a fit memorial of the greatest character in human history. It looks down upon scenes most loved by him on earth, the most conspicuous object in a landscape full of objects deeply interesting to the American people. All eyes turn to it, and all hearts feel the inspiration of its beauty, symmetry, and grandeur."

1 comment:

LIVE A LIFE THAT MATTERS said...

I just can never/ ever be satisfied, even after taking thousands of pictures, a MasterPiece, indeed.