Source: Our Nation's Capital
Washington Monument

"First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." That's how Congress praised George Washington after he died in 1799. People call Washington "the father of our country" because he led the American army to victory in the Revolutionary War and served as the first President of the new United States. He was the only President ever elected unanimously.
     In 1791 Pierre-Charles L'Enfant wanted to put up a grand statue of Washington on a horse west of the Capitol. But Washington was a very modest man. He did not want the government to spend any money on him. So the plan was shelved until 1848, when new plans were approved. Now the monument was to be a building, and its cornerstone was laid on the Fourth of July. But the work went slowly, and stopped altogether between 1854 and 1876 because of lack of money, political disputes, and the Civil War.
     When the Washington Monument finally opened to the public in 1888, it was 555 feet, 51/8 inches tall, the tallest stone building in the world. It had 898 steps to the level of the windows at 500 feet. Instead of huffing and puffing up the steps, men could ride the steam elevator, which took 20 minutes. (Women and children had to walk because the elevator was considered too dangerous!)
     Today the monument has only 897 steps (the bottom one has been converted to a wheelchair ramp). But visitors aren't allowed to walk up anymore; now everyone can ride the elevator to the top in 70 seconds and look out on the city. From there it's easy to see L'Enfant's grand design for our nation's capital, named in honor of the first President.

Washington Monument reproducible

Try This

     Like Washington, most communities have buildings or statues to honor famous people. Imagine that you could design a new public monument for your town. Whom would your monument honor? What would it look like? Draw your monument or model it out of clay, then share your ideas with your class. (Hint: to get ideas, explore the history of your community.)