Beautifully printed Certificate from the Washington National Monument Society
around 1849. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with vignettes of George Washington flanked by two allegorical women, the monument complete with the Pantheon, and the Obelisk of the Monument. The Pantheon was never completed. It also shows the height of the Obelisk was to be 500 feet, but it ended up being 555 feet. This has the printed signatures of various society members including President Zachary Taylor and it has the hand signature of the Agent. This document is over 159 years old.
Zachary Taylor, (1784-1850), 12th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. A career soldier who never voted, he served fewer than 500 days in the WHITE HOUSE. Yet he significantly influenced political developments during the first half of 1850, when there was a domestic crisis and a grave possibility of civil war. Although long a slaveholder, Taylor was as much a Westerner as a Southerner. He was nationalistic in his orientation, seeking, above all, to preserve the Union.
After all these attempts to honor Washington had failed, a group of private citizens from Washington, D. C., took it upon themselves to rectify this absence of a national monument to the first president. These influential citizens formed the Washington National Monument Society. After establishing their headquarters in the basement of the City Hall, they began a fund raising campaign. In order to give everyone in the country a chance to contribute to the monument, they limited the amount that each person could contribute to a dollar a year. Fund raising for the monument hit its first of many snags during Andrew Jackson's administration, when the country suffered financial problems due to political conflict between the President, Congress, and the Bank of the United States. By 1836, only $28,000 had been collected, but it was enough to encourage the Society to hold a national competition for the design of the monument.
The Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 as a memorial to George Washington, first President of the United States. Its construction took place in two major phases, 1848-56, and 1876-84--the Civil War and a lack of funds causing the intermittent hiatus. Plans for a national monument began as early as 1783 when Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant proposed to Congress that an equestrian statue of George Washington be erected. Although the Monument was authorized by Congress, no action was taken by the time Washington died in 1799. His death rekindled public aspiration for an appropriate memorial to him, and John Marshall proposed that a special sepulcher be erected for the General within the Capitol itself. Lack of funds postponed construction, but Marshall persevered, and in 1833 he and James Madison formed the Washington National Monument Society. By 1836 the Society advertised for competitive architectural designs. The winning architect was Robert Mills, whose design called for a neoclassical plan which provided for a nearly-flat-topped obelisk surrounded by a circular colonnade on which would stand a statue of Washington in a chariot. Inside the colonnade statues of 30 prominent Revolutionary War heroes would be displayed.
In an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony in 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Lack of funds and the illegal election which placed the Washington Monument Society in the hands of the Know-Nothings, a political party, caused delays. After the Know Nothings returned all records to the original society in 1858, the Civil War interrupted construction. When Lt.Col.Thomas L.Casey, Mills' successor, resumed the project in 1876, he redesigned the monument to resemble an unadorned Egyptian obelisk with a pointed pyramidion. The original design was greatly altered, producing an unembellished obelisk. The Corps of Engineers of the War Department was placed in charge of the final construction, and the monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and opened to the public on October 9, 1888.
Weighing 90,854 tons, the Washington Monument stands 555' 5-1/8" tall. The walls of the monument range in thickness from 15' at the base to 18'' at the upper shaft. They are composed of white marble from Maryland and Massachusetts, underlain by granite, the whole supported by interior ironwork. A slight color change is perceptible at the 152' -level. A flight of 897 steps rises to the observation area in the pyramidion. Inserted into the interior walls are 192 carved stones presented by individuals, societies, cities, States, and nations of the world. An elevator takes visitors to the top, where they can gaze over the city from the monument's windows.
In 1996, the Washington Monument Restoration Project was kicked off with Target Stores joining the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to help restore this national treasure. Guaranteeing $1 million, Target serves as the lead sponsor working with the foundation to raise awareness and an additional $4 million in donations from corporate partners. The restoration will include: constructing scaffolding for the entire 555-foot, 5 1/8-inch monument; sealing 500 feet of exterior and interior stone cracks; pointing 64,000 linear feet of exterior joints; cleaning 59,000 square feet of interior wall surface; sealing eight observation windows and eight aircraft warning lights; repairing 1,000 square feet of chipped and patched stone; pointing 3,900 linear feet of interior joints; and preserving and restoring 192 interior commemorative stones. The projected completion year for the project is 2000.
The origin of columns is often convoluted from their beginning to reality. This one about the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., originated from a clipping from an Associated Press story which was published in The Daily Times nearly a decade ago - Jan. 1, 1993, to be exact.
This article related that some 1 million visitors take the 70-second elevator ride to the top of the 555-foot, 5 1/8 inch high monument but few ever take the time to see a fascinating feature of the world's tallest, free-standing, all-stone structure on their way down.
Made of white marble from Maryland and granite from Maine, the obelisk is the tallest structure in the nation's capital. During the Washington Monument's 36 years of construction, another monument was being built inside. It is composed of 193 memorial stones, most of which were put in place during the construction of the monument, which was built in intervals between 1848 and 1885.
Both elaborately carved stones, as well as simply worded blocks of stone, are in place throughout the stair landings of the monument as a tribute to the nation's first president. They came from each of the 50 states, various organizations and groups, such as the Masons, the Odd Fellows, churches from all over the U.S. and several foreign countries. Each of the stones was contributed to honor George Washington on behalf of a grateful nation..
Washington died in 1799 without a monument in the city that would take his name. Arguments over style, site, and cost doomed every proposal. Finally construction was begun July 4, 1848, but six years later, everything - money, luck, rational thinking - ran out. In 1854 it stood at 152 feet, known as the ``stump'' years. The Know-Nothing political party seized control of the monument for three years during which time they added only 26 feet of masonry, marble that the master mason had originally rejected as imperfect.
During the Civil War the monument grounds became drill fields, then grazing land with holding pens for livestock waiting to be sent to a slaughterhouse constructed nearby. Mark Twain wrote in a Washington newspaper in 1867 that he saw the unfinished monument as ``a factory chimney with the top broken off...cow sheds about its base...contented sheep nibbling pebbles in the desert solitudes...tired pigs dozing in the holy calm of its protecting shadow.''
As the nation's centennial approached, the only memorial to the first president was a stump in a stockyard. In 1866, a Tennessean, President Andrew Johnson urged, ``Let us restore the Union, and let us proceed with the Monument as its symbol until it shall contain the pledge of all the States of the Union..''
Delayed by the usual feuding over design and cost, along with new arguments regarding the stability of the structure's foundation, delayed construction. It was half way through the year 1876 by the time Congress agreed to appropriate money to get work going again.
In the past 50 years the 80,000-ton monument has settled two inches. In a 30-mile-per-hour wind the monument sways one-eighth of an inch.
Today when the monument is open, National Park Service rangers escort visitors down the 897 steps to give them a close-up view of the stones. As visitors descent the stairs, rangers tell them the story behind the stones.
Then the article gave a sampling of the stories behind the stones:
Alabama - Made from marble, it arrived in 1850. When the Washington Monument Society - organized in 1833 to undertake the construction of a national monument to Washington - sent out letters in the 1830s asking for money to help with the costs, Alabama was the first to answer. They told the society, ``We don't have any money, but we do have marble.'' A tradition was born from that letter. Their stone has these words on it, ``A Union of Equality, as Adjusted by the Constitution.''
Georgia - White marble with the words, ``The Union As It Was, The Constitution As It Is.'' The stone was placed in 1865.
Tennessee - ``The Federal Union, It Must Be Preserved.'' The stone is native marble that came in 1851.
With Blount County often being among the top three among more than 3,000 counties in the United States in the production of dimension (building) marble, we immediately wondered if the Tennessee block of marble came from Blount County.
That led to my saving of the clipping.
It also added that some stones are valuable not only for their history but for the material from which they are made. The Alaska stone is solid green jade. Citizens of Stockton, Calif., gave a stone made of granite with letters in gold leaf that date from the 1850s gold rush.
Michigan's gift is made of solid copper, with a sterling silver coat of arms and lettering. In 1852 when it came to Washington, these 2,100 pounds of copper cost about $1,000.
Visitors also get to see several foreign stones on the tour. Stones from Wales, Germany, and Greece can be seen from the landings.
Perhaps one of the most famous stones is the one that wasn't there. In 1854 Pope Pius IX sent the ``Pope Stone,'' a piece of white marble that read, ``A Roma Americae'' (Rome to America).
The stone, however, was stolen by the Know-Nothings, a political party hostile to Catholics and foreign-born Americans.
It is believed that the men stole the stone from its storage place on the Mall and then made their way to the Potomac River where it is believed they dumped it into the river.
In 1982, though, thanks to the efforts of Father James E. Grant of Spokane, Wash., a new ``Pope Stone'' was presented to the National Park Service as the replacement stone.
Shortly after the article appeared we wrote a letter to the Department of Interior seeking more information on the Tennessee stones. We found there is no publication describing all the stones but the department researched the three stones from the state of Tennessee.
The earliest received by the society was the Nashville stone, sometime after Jan.15, 1850. It was shipped to Washington, D.C., via Baltimore, and may have been carved by ``a William Strickland.'' (They apparently didn't realize that Strickland was architect of the Tennessee state capitol and is buried within its walls.) It is located at the 40-foot level of the stairwell, and is of dark limestone (the same as used in the capitol), four feet by two feet in dimension.
The Tennessee stone was received at the monument on May 20, 1851, and is of highly variegated pink marble. It is of the same size. The inscription, ``Tennessee - The Federal Union, It must be Preserved,'' is well proportioned with the letters outlined on the surface.
Next to it on the 230-foot level, is the Hawkins County stone of highly polished brown and white marble. It is of the same size, and is inscribed using the same techniques. It is safe to assume that the stones were quarried at the same place, and more than likely, because they have the same stylistic format, the carving was done by the same person.
With no further details available, the matter rested until last year when there was renewed interest when for the first time since 1934 renovation of the Washington Monument began - a $9.4 million project. The scaffolding is encased in a blue mesh from base to tip, It is mostly decorative, designed to mimic the stone block pattern and preserve the general shape of the national icon until the work is completed. Some say the monument looks more interesting with the netting.
Walls of the monument are 15 feet thick at the bottom and 18 inches at the 500-foot level. Some 37 miles of aluminum scaffolding are wrapped around the monument. The foundation is 36 feet, 10 inches deep.
What is being done? The entire exterior is being cleaned, all the joints repointed, and the lightning protection system repaired. (It gets struck by lightning about once a year and thus there are lighting rods in the pyramidion, even in its pencil-sharp point. These rods are made of copper, are platinum-tipped and gold plated. The platinum protects the copper from melting and the gold keeps the copper from patinating or staining the stone.)
The mortar between the 36,000 stones in the monument has been replaced at least twice. Some were caulked which is no longer popular. A very soft mortar mix is used now so if anything moves it will be the mortar, not the stone. Workers will put in dutchmen where they are needed. That's where most of the stone is still good, but it's so damaged that a patch wouldn't hold, so workers cut out part of the stone and replace it with a similar piece, pinning it into the stone. Marble doesn't take pressure that well. Pressure builds on the corners and they break off.
To get the dutchmen, Park Service personnel went back to the original quarry sites. They found the first still operating but it grinds stone for industrial uses, not for marble blocks. The second one is now a swimming club. However, the owners were cooperative and donated stones left around.
Restoration began in January 1998 when the monument was closed so that heating and air-conditioning systems could be upgraded. The elevation which dates from 1959 was also modernized.
The monument is lighted at night with hundreds of fixtures donated by General Electric. Target Stones, which will open a store in Maryville the first of March, persuaded other corporations to join them, and together they have raised more than $5 million for the rehab job. Target added another $1.5 million for interior renovations to the observation room and exhibit area.
The monument's design was changed over the years and was finally modeled after the obelisks that the Romans brought from Egypt to Rome as booty. The classic proportions were 10 feet in height for every foot in width at the base with the peak cut away at a 60-degree angle.
The monument was constructed in two phases as funds allowed from 1848 to 1855 and 1878 to 1884 and cost $1,187,710 ($19 million today) to build.
Its glory as the world's tallest structure was short-lived. In 1889 the Eiffel Tower in Paris shot up 984 feet, celebrating the new technology of metal and achieving an effect of lightness.
The protracted struggle to build the monument began in the 18th century when Washington was still alive. The Continental Congress, puffed by victory in the war against Britain, ordered up a classical statue depicting the founding father astride a horse and in Roman dress. The design proposal caused a rancorous split between Federalists and Republicans. Was a general on horseback in Roman garb, too imperial an image for American democracy? And how much of the people's money should go to pay for it.
Officially dedicated on Washington's birthday in 1885, the monument was opened to the public three years later.
Last year, we decided to impose on the Tennessee State Librarian, Edwin S. Gleaves, and his staff to answer the source of the three Tennessee stones in the monument.
Correspondence in state archives indicate the Tennessee stone was indeed carved by William Strickland and is of the same stone as the Tennessee Capitol.
The Nashville stone and the Hawkins County stones were, as suspected, both quarried from the same site in Hawkins County, another producer of pink marble. Rogersville is the county seat.
Blount County marble was not included. However, the pink marble of which the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is built came from Blount County.
Can Blount County at this late date add its stone to the Washington Monument?
We asked Rep. John J. ``Jimmy'' Duncan Jr.'s office to check out the possibility.
The answer is that while masonic groups, churches, cities, and counties - as well as states - have stones in the original structure only new states have been added since it was completed in 1885. Nearly a dozen stones have been added for new states.
Washington: The Man
George Washington was born February 22, 1732 on his father’s plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia. As a young man he worked as a surveyor, gaining detailed knowledge of western lands and a taste for adventure. When Washington was 21 Virginia’s royal governor sent him into the Ohio Valley to warn the French to stay of the lands claimed by Great Britain. In the ensuing French and Indian War, Washington received his first military experience. Fame gained on the field of battle led to his first political victory, election to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he served during the growing political difficulties with Great Britain. He represented Virginia in the Continental Congress, and in 1775 Congress chose him to command American troops. He created the Continental Army, found and selected talented officers, and successfully waged a revolution against the most powerful nation in the world. At war’s end Washington had become identified with the Revolution’s triumphant conclusion; no American commanded the respect he did. After the war, Washington returned to Mount Vernon where he hoped to remain. But the young federation was faltering, and as the people had looked to Washington for leadership in war, so they looked to him for leadership in peace. At the resulting Constitutional Convention, Washington was elected the presiding officer. The new Constitution provided for a President to head the government, and Washington was the ideal choice. He served two terms, 1789-97, and refused pressure to run for a third. He retired, again, to Mount Vernon and remained there until his death, December 14, 1799.