What is the volume of concrete used in the construction of the Washington Monument?

Tourist Attractions

By Kristy Tolley

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is an iconic obelisk located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., that stands at 555 feet, 5.125 inches tall, making it the tallest structure in the city. It is a tribute to the first President of the United States, George Washington, and is considered one of the most visited tourist attractions in the United States.

Historical Background of the Monument

The idea of building a monument to honor George Washington was first proposed in 1783, shortly after his death. However, it was not until 1832 that the Washington National Monument Society was formed and fundraising began. The construction of the monument was a long and arduous process that spanned several decades and was interrupted by financial difficulties, political disputes, and the Civil War. Finally, after nearly 40 years of planning and construction, the monument was completed and dedicated on February 21, 1885.

Construction of the Washington Monument

The construction of the Washington Monument was led by architect Robert Mills, who was also responsible for designing the U.S. Treasury Building and the U.S. Patent Office. The project was initiated with a cornerstone laying ceremony on July 4, 1848, attended by President James K. Polk and a crowd of 20,000 people.

Materials Used for the Monument

The Washington Monument is constructed of white marble, granite, and sandstone. Over 36,000 blocks of stone were used in the construction of the monument, which was built in two phases. The lower half of the monument is made of white marble from Maryland, while the upper half is made of white marble from Massachusetts. The monument’s capstone is made of aluminum, which was a rare and expensive material at the time of its construction.

The Base and Foundation of the Monument

The base of the Washington Monument is a square measuring 55 feet on each side and 15 feet high. The foundation of the monument is made of concrete, which was poured into a 36-foot-deep hole in the ground. The concrete foundation is reinforced by a network of iron bars, which were placed inside the foundation to prevent cracking and settling.

The Exterior of the Monument

The exterior of the Washington Monument is composed of 36,491 stone blocks, each weighing between 2 and 4 tons. The blocks are arranged in a pattern that creates a series of horizontal lines around the monument, giving it a distinctive appearance. The surface of the monument is also adorned with various inscriptions and decorations, including the Latin phrase "Laus Deo," which means "Praise be to God."

The Interior of the Monument

The interior of the Washington Monument features a 70-person-capacity elevator that takes visitors to the observation deck at the top of the monument. The walls of the interior feature 193 commemorative stones, which were donated by individuals, organizations, and foreign countries in honor of George Washington. The stones are located on the walls of the stairwell, and each is inscribed with the name of the donor and the date of presentation.

The Cracks and Repairs of the Monument

Over the years, the Washington Monument has suffered from several structural issues, including cracking and settling. The most significant damage occurred in 2011, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the East Coast and caused several large cracks to appear on the monument’s exterior. Repairs to the monument were completed in 2014, at a cost of $15 million.

How Much Concrete Was Used in the Monument?

The Washington Monument is primarily composed of stone, but concrete was used in the construction of its foundation. The amount of concrete used in the monument has been a subject of debate and speculation for many years, with estimates ranging from several hundred cubic yards to several thousand.

The Volume of Concrete Used in the Washington Monument

Recent research has suggested that the volume of concrete used in the foundation of the Washington Monument was approximately 36,910 cubic feet, or 1,356 cubic yards. This is equivalent to approximately 43,000 bags of concrete, each weighing 80 pounds.

Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a testament to the enduring legacy of George Washington and the ideals that he represents. Its construction was a long and difficult process, but the monument now stands as a symbol of America’s greatness and its commitment to freedom, democracy, and justice.

References and Further Reading

  • National Park Service. "Washington Monument." Accessed September 9, 2021. https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm
  • Smithsonian Magazine. "How Much Concrete Was Used in the Washington Monument?" Accessed September 9, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-much-concrete-was-used-in-the-washington-monument-180976710/
  • U.S. Department of the Interior. "The Washington Monument: A Brief History." Accessed September 9, 2021.
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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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