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Washington Monument

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Dr. N. Subramanian
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Joined: 21 Feb 2008
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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:39 pm    Post subject: Washington Monument Reply with quote

The Washington Monument

Exterior structure

* Total height of monument:169.294 m
* Height from lobby to observation level: 152 m
* Width at base of monument: 16.802 m
* Width at top of shaft:10.49 m
* Thickness of monument walls at base: 4.6 m
* Thickness of monument walls at observation level: 60 mm
* Total weight of monument: 82,421 t
* Total number of blocks in monument: 36,491
* Sway of monument in 48 km/h wind: 3.2 mm


* Depth: 11.23 m
* Weight: 33,486 metric tons
* Area: 1,486.5 m2


* Number of commemorative stones in stairwell: 193
* Present elevator installed: 1998
* Present elevator cab installed: 2001
* Elevator travel time: 90 seconds
* Number of steps in stairwell: 897
* Fastest known ascent time via stairs: 6.7 minutes (in 2005)

The Washington Monument stands at the heart of Washington, D.C., near the center of a cross formed by four of America's most famous buildings: the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. It was built between 1848 and 1884 in honor of George Washington, first President of the United States of America. The Monument is shaped like an Egyptian obelisk, stands 555’ 5 1/8” (169.294 m) tall, and offers views in excess of thirty miles. It was finished on December 6, 1884.

Alternative designs considered for the Washington Monument.

(Library of Congress)
There are taller monumental columns, but they are neither all stone nor true obelisks. It is also the tallest structure in Washington D.C.. It was designed by Robert Mills, an architect of the 1840s. The actual construction of the monument began in 1848 but was not completed until 1884, almost 30 years after the architect's death. This hiatus in construction happened because of co-option by the 'Know Nothing' party, a lack of funds, and the intervention of the American Civil War. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet (46 m or 27%) up, shows where construction was halted for a number of years. The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848; the capstone was set on December 6, 1884, and the completed monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885. It officially opened October 9, 1888. Upon completion, it became the world's tallest structure, a title previously held by the Cologne Cathedral (The monument held this designation until 1889, when the Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris, France). The Heights of Buildings Act of 1910 restricts new building heights to no more than 6.1 m greater than the width of the adjacent street. (There is a popular misconception that the law specifically states that no building may be taller than the Washington Monument, but in fact the law makes no mention of it).

Washington Monument plans and time line of construction.

The Monument consists of a 169.16 m high column with a large pyramidal foundation. It was built in two periods straddling the Civil War. During the first period from 1848 to 1858, the foundation base was 24.38 m square, the column was built to a height of 55.5 m and the average pressure under the foundation reached 513 kPa. In 1879, the foundation was underpinned and the base of the foundation became a square ring with an outside dimension of 38.54 m and an inside dimension of 13.41 m. The column was completed in 1884 and created an average pressure under the foundation of 465 kPa.

The original foundation rested on a medium compact sand - stiff clay mixture which was 3.76 m thick, underlain by a 8.30 m thick layer of very dense sand, gravel and clay, followed by a 11.68 m thick layer of stiff to very stiff high plasticity blue clay resting on decomposed Wissahickon schist. The underpinning brought the foundation level down to the very dense sand and gravel layer. Calculations indicate that the Monument settled about 1.3 m during the first construction period,1848-1858. During underpinning in 1879, the measured settlement was 52 mm. During the completion of the column from
55.5 m to the full height of 169.16 m the measured settlement was an additional 63 mm. From 1884 to 1993, the Washington Monument settled an additional 55 mm in a very linear fashion with time. The remarkable case history published in the International Journal of Geoengineering Case histories, gives details including settlement and bearing capacity calculations which show that the underpinning process in 1879 likely saved the Monument from serious trouble.The monument underwent extensive renovation between 1998 and 2000. During this time it was completely covered in scaffolding.

Visiting the Site
The Washington Monument, administered by the National Park Service, is located in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall between 15th and 17th Streets and between Constitution and Independence Avenues. Admission to the Washington Monument is FREE but requires a ticket.

The Washington Monument is open daily except July 4 and December 25.
Summer Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (May 31 - September 6, 2010), with the last tour beginning before 9:45 p.m.
Rest of Year: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the last tour beginning before 4:45 p.m.
The Washington Monument Lodge, located along 15th Street, opens at 8:30 a.m. for distribution of free, same day, timed tickets on a first come first serve basis. One person may pick up as many as six tickets as well as select their preferred ticket time from what remains available for that operating day. All individuals (including children) must have a ticket.If you wish to reserve tickets, you may do so by visiting the National Park Service ticket website at http://www.recreation.gov

You have to climb 897 steps with 50 landings to reach the top though there is an elevator also. The stairs are no longer accessible to the general public due to safety issues and vandalism of the interior commemorative plaques.The Washington Monument has more than 800,000 visitors each year.

Do you know?

1. The 125th anniversary of the Washington Monument is celebrated in 2010. (it was dedicated on February 21, 1885)

2. In the early 1850s, Pope Pius IX contributed a block of marble. In March 1854, members of the anti-Catholic, nativist American Party—better known as the "Know-Nothings"—stole the Pope's stone as a protest and supposedly threw it into the Potomac (it was replaced in 1982).
3. The Know-Nothings retained control of the society until 1858, adding 13 courses of masonry to the monument—all of which was of such poor quality it was later removed.
4. As early as 1937 flags were placed around the Washington Monument. On
February 22 of that year, 48 flags one for each state in the Union were
placed around the monument in honor of George Washington's birthday. The
original 1937 flagstaffs were made of wood and thus were not intended to be
permanent features. They stood intermittently for 21 years until 1959 when
they were replaced by the 50 aluminum poles which appear today.
5. For ten hours in December 1982, the Washington Monument was "held hostage" by a nuclear arms protester, Norman Mayer, claiming to have explosives in a van he drove up to the monument's base. Eight tourists trapped in the monument at the time the standoff began were set free, and the incident ended with U.S. Park Police opening fire on Mayer, killing him. The monument was undamaged in the incident, and it was discovered later that Mayer did not have explosives.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument
2. http://www.nps.gov/wamo/historyculture/washington-monument-at-125.htm
3.Briaud J-L., Smith B., Rhee K-Y., Lacy H., Nicks J., (2009). The Washington Monument Case History,International Journal of Geoengineering Case histories, Vol.1, Issue 3, p.170-188, (http://casehistories.geoengineer.org)Dr.N.Subramanian,Ph.D.,F.ASCE, M.ACI,

Maryland, USA

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