Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Washington's Monuent




My twin teenage granddaughters just visited Washington, DC for the first time. They took lots of pictures and one in particular is of the Washington Monument.

The picture clearly shows the change in granite color about a third of the way up the obelisque.

Here’s the reason.

It took 37-years to build.

The simple, but elegant monument we see today lacks many of the frills it was designed to have. Originally the architect wanted to surround the obelisque with a hundred foot tall Greek temple, with niches for the statues of thirty prominent Americans. Above the entrance was to be a massive statue of Washington, clad in a toga, driving a battle chariot, drawn by Arabian horses.

It was a good thing the economy of the day called for a more modest memorial.

Private citizens took up a collection and the cornerstone was laid on the 4th of July 1848. Building was slow. Six years later the monument was only 152 feet toll.

Many of the stones for the monument were donated, states, territories, even the Cherokee nation contributed stones to the project. Greece sent a white marble slab from the ruin of the Parthenon. Pope Pius the 9th sent a marble slab from the temple of Concord in Rome.

Near Dawn, in early March of 1854 the pope's gift was stolen from the site. A band of masked men overpowered a guard and rolled the stone in a handcart to the Potomac River. It was never recovered. Later some of the thieves confessed. They were members of the an anti foreigner, anti-catholic political group called the "Know Nothings."

Work on the project practically stopped during the civil war years. Finally, in 1878 the Federal Government stepped in and got the monument to George Washington finished.


 
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