Then and Now: Washington Monument

Located in historic Mt. Vernon Square, the surrounding grassy knolls have hosted FlowerMart, the Baltimore Book Festival, and, of course, the monument's annual holiday lighting.

By Ron Cassie. Additional writing by Hilary Geisbert, Suzanne Loudermilk Haughey, Ken Iglehart, John Lewis, Jess Blumberg Mayhugh, and Amy Mulvihill

Before: Washington Monument. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detriot Publishing Company Collection, [LC-DIG-det-4a29716] After: Photography by David Colwell

The Charles Street landmark was the first planned monument to the first President, predating the other Washington Monument in our nation’s capital by several decades. Located in historic Mt. Vernon Square, the surrounding grassy knolls have hosted FlowerMart, the Baltimore Book Festival, and, of course, the monument's annual holiday lighting.

The 178-foot monument, designed by Robert Mills, was finished in 1829—14 years after construction began. (Mills also designed the obelisk on the Mall in D.C., which opened in 1885.) Col. John Eager Howard, who served under Washington, donated land to the project and $100,000 was raised for the monument’s construction through a Maryland-authorized lottery—although the costs ultimately forced the original design to be scaled back.

Scaffolding currently envelops the monument, closed since 2010. A $5.5-million restoration effort begun this year will fix structural problems discovered during a Mount Vernon Place Conservancy engineering study. Visitors hoping to climb the 228 steps to the top of the monument for one of the best views of the city will have to wait until Independence Day 2015—the bicentennial of the start of construction of the monument and scheduled completion date of the repairs.


Did you know?

Forest for the Trees

Howard’s Woods

When the monument’s cornerstone was laid on July 5, 1815, Charles Street did not yet reach the monument area, and the surrounding environ was a forest, known as Howard’s Woods.

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