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February 21, 1885: Washington’s Iconic Monument Gets Dedicated

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The Washington Monument stands proudly on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a towering tribute to the nation’s first president, George Washington. Its dedication, a momentous occasion in American history, marked the culmination of years of planning, fundraising, and construction. The monument’s dedication on February 21, 1885, was a significant event that brought together people from all walks of life to celebrate the enduring legacy the father of our nation.

The idea of constructing a monument to honor George Washington was first proposed in the early 19th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the project gained momentum. The Washington National Monument Society was formed in 1833 to oversee the fundraising and design of the monument. The selected design by architect Robert Mills envisioned a grand obelisk towering over the capital city, symbolizing the strength and unity of the young nation.

However, the road to completion was not without obstacles. Construction began in 1848 but was halted in 1854 due to lack of funds and the onset of the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1876 that the project resumed under the leadership of the newly formed Army Corps of Engineers. The dedication ceremony became a beacon of hope and resilience, symbolizing the nation’s ability to overcome challenges and unite in its pursuit of honoring its first president.

On the day of the dedication, a crowd of thousands gathered on the grounds of the National Mall, eager to witness the historic event. The ceremony began with military bands playing patriotic tunes, setting the stage for a day filled with pride and reverence. President Chester A. Arthur, along with other dignitaries, delivered speeches that reflected on Washington’s contributions to the birth of the nation and the enduring principles he stood for.

The highlight of the dedication was the unveiling of a memorial capstone, completing the construction of the monument. The capstone, made of pure aluminum, was a symbol of innovation and progress. At the time, aluminum was a precious metal, and using it for the capstone was a testament to America’s technological advancements and industrial prowess.

As the massive American flag that shrouded the monument was slowly lowered, the crowd erupted in cheers, marking the official dedication of the Washington Monument. The monument, standing at 555 feet, became the tallest structure in the world at that time, a fitting tribute to the towering legacy of George Washington.

The dedication of the Washington Monument served as a unifying force for the nation, bringing together people from different backgrounds and regions to celebrate a shared history. It was a moment of national pride, symbolizing the perseverance of the American spirit and the enduring legacy of a leader who played a pivotal role in the creation of the United States.


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