Washington Monument: Is The George Washington Tribute Shrinking?

washington monument height

The Washington Monument will be “shortened” from its original height after renovations are complete. Federal government surveyors announced on Monday that the official height of the Washington Monument on the capital’s National Mall has been reduced by approximately nearly 10 inches.

The new measurement of the Washington Monument puts the height of the tribute to the first president of the United States at 554 feet, seven and 11/32 inches — as measured from the floor of the main entrance to the top. Prior to the ongoing renovations to the monument to honor George Washington, the tower reportedly measured in at 555 feet, five and 1/8 inches.

National Geodetic Survey Chief Geodesist Dru Smtih stated during an interview with the Associated Press that “modern international standards” from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat “call for” a different base point. The new standards call for measurements to be taken from the lowest open-air pedestrian entrance to the building.

“The building didn’t change height because of anything; it is just where you start from,” Smith said.

The original Washington Monument measurements recorded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Casey in 1884 are believed to have been garnered using four brass markers as a base for measurement. Those markers still reportedly remain in place nine inches below ground on each corner of the monument. It is feasible that the brass markers placed in 1884 were once at ground level in the past. A new plaza was created around the Washington Monument recently.

Measurements from the brass markers to the top in 1999 and 2014 essentially confirmed that the 1884 measurement was completed with “incredible accuracy.” The only Washington Monument reportedly “observable” height change stems from the pyramid-shaped tip, which has rounded some over the decades. In 1934, surveyors noticed the monument peak had been “rounded” due to possible lightning strikes, causing the aluminum tip to melt.

“Well, this time around, we took very careful measurements. We were able to determine about 3/8 of an inch had been melted off from the very top,” Smith added. “It’s remarkable, quite honestly, that they had the ability to get such an accurate measurement back in that time.”

Even though the Washington Monument measurements were gauged with far less sophisticated equipment in 1998, the findings were within 3.4 of an inch from the results of the most recent survey — using the four brass markers as a starting base.

The new survey of the monument designed to honor George Washington was taken while the monument was still covered in scaffolding erected for restoration work after an earthquake in 2011. The monument was built on land that used to be underwater. The land has reportedly sunk approximately two inches since 1901.

The Washington Monument was the world’s tallest structure until the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889. It remains the tallest structure in the nation’s capital.

[Image via: Shutterstock.com]