Washington Monument (Baltimore)

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Washington Monument
The Washington Monument in Baltimore
Coordinates 39°17′51″N 76°36′57″W / 39.29750°N 76.61583°W / 39.29750; -76.61583Coordinates: 39°17′51″N 76°36′57″W / 39.29750°N 76.61583°W / 39.29750; -76.61583
Location Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Designer Robert Mills
Type Doric column
Material White marble
Height 178 feet (54 m)
Beginning date 1815
Completion date 1829
Dedicated to George Washington

The Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, was the first architectural monument planned to honor George Washington, and is the oldest surviving such monument.


In 1815, a statue was designed by Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Construction began in 1815 and was completed by 1829. The 178 foot doric column holds a ground-floor museum offering information about Washington as well as construction of the monument. Climbing the 228 steps to the top provides an excellent view of the city from the historic neighborhood where it is located. Its neighbors include the Peabody Institute and The Walters Art Museum.

The glorification of Washington began long before his death in December 1799, and the dedication of a memorial in his honor seemed certain. A monument honoring Washington in Baltimore was first proposed in 1809, and a committee was formed to commission and fund the monument. In 1811, the first of six lotteries, authorized by the Maryland General Assembly, was held, eventually raising enough funds to construct a Washington monument in Baltimore. Mills's design was chosen in an architectural competition in 1815, and the cornerstone laid on July 4 of that year.[1]

Early designs included rich ornamentation, six iron galleries dividing the hollow shaft into seven sections, and a quadriga surmounting the column. The design of the completed column is very similar to the Colonne Vendôme, which ultimately derived from Trajan's Column and was adopted in this time of Neoclassicism in American architecture.

Baltimore's Washington Monument, 1890 (looking north)

The monument, which was constructed of white marble from Cockeysville,[2] rises 178 feet and consists of three main elements: a low, rectangular base containing a museum; a plain, unfluted column; and, atop the column, a standing figure of Washington. By the time of the monument's completion in 1829, financial constraints had forced a series of design compromises which simplified the monument.

William Rusk, in his book Art in Baltimore: Monuments and Memorials, tells the following story about the raising of Italian sculptor Enrico Causici's marble statue of Washington in 1829. "Tradition recalls a prodigy occurring when the statue was raised to the summit of the monument - a shooting star dashed across the sky and an eagle lit on the head of the settling general."

Before the Baltimore monument could be completed, the original memorial in Washington Monument State Park (near Boonsboro, Maryland and the Appalachian Trail), was constructed in 1827, making the Boonsboro tower the first public monument to George Washington in the nation,[3] although it has since been rebuilt twice.

The iron fence around the base was designed by Mills and added in 1838. It contains some of the symbolism that had been deleted from the column due to cost considerations.[4] A driver ran a 1997 Chrysler van through the southeast corner on October 30, 2010 and damaged roughly 15 feet of the fence.[5]

Lead paint in the interior of the monument was removed in 1985-92.[citation needed]

Baltimore's Washington Monument, 1900 (looking west)

Cultural references[edit]

The monument is referenced by Herman Melville (as Ishmael) in Chapter XXXV (The Mast-Head) of Moby-Dick, "Great Washington, too, stands high aloft on his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules' pillars, his column marks that point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals will go."

  • In the show Ace of Cakes the star Duff does the ceremonial lighting of the Monument. He was quoted saying that Baltimore's monument was first, better, cooler, and lights up.
  • The Hollywood film ...And Justice for All has a scene of Al Pacino running around the monument.
  • The film The Bedroom Window, directed by Curtis Hanson, is set largely in Mount Vernon and is about an attempted murder that takes place at the base of the monument.
  • In 1998, an opening scene to the movie Pecker was filmed in front of the Washington Monument. In audio commentary that accompanies the DVD, director John Waters states that the photo the film's titular character (played by Edward Furlong) takes of the monument is "the oldest dirty joke in Baltimore" due to the resemblance of Washington's extended arm to a large phallus when viewed from the angle at which the photo is taken.


The monument was closed in June 2010 for safety reasons, according to articles in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post newspapers. Missing mortar and rusted support brackets were among specific safety concerns. While reports initially indicated the closure would last three months, it was later determined that reopening would not take place until a renovation was completed.

The monument is undergoing a $5 million renovation which began in January 2014. It is expected to reopen for tours in time for the bicentennial of the cornerstone being laid, on July 4, 2015.[6]

Cornerstone rediscovered[edit]

During the monument's renovation two time capsules were rediscovered. Although they had long been known to exist, their exact locations had been a mystery. The first was a sealed copper box that had been placed behind a plaque in the monument during the centennial celebrations in 1915. It was discovered in October 2014.[7]

In February 2015, during digging for a sewage tank, a second time capsule was discovered containing three well preserved glass jars stuffed with and surrounded by newspapers from July 1 and July 3, 1815, the days right before the laying of the cornerstone. The cornerstone was a nearly perfect granite cube with a marble lid, weighing between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds (roughly 450 to 700 kg). Besides the jars, the cornerstone contained a panel carved by local stonemasons and carvers of the time, and is expected to contain additional items, including coins and a metal plate. Like the 1915 capsule, it is to be taken to the Walters Art Museum for analysis.[8][9]

Historic designation[edit]

The Washington Monument is the centerpiece of the Mount Vernon Place National Historic Landmark District, designated in 1971.[10] The Historic District is in turn within the Baltimore National Heritage Area.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dorsey, John & Dilts, James D., Guide to Baltimore Architecture (1997) p. 116. Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, Maryland ISBN 978-0-87033-477-1
  2. ^ Dorsey, John & Dilts, James D., Guide to Baltimore Architecture (1997) p. 116. Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, Maryland ISBN 978-0-87033-477-1
  3. ^ "Washington Monument State Park". State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved November 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ Dorsey, John & Dilts, James D., Guide to Baltimore Architecture’(1997) p. 117. Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, Maryland ISBN 978-0-87033-477-1
  5. ^ Washington Monument Baltimore | Van destroys section of Baltimore's Washington Monument fence - Baltimore Sun. Articles.baltimoresun.com (2010-10-30). Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  6. ^ Wenger, Yvonne. "Washington Monument set to undergo $5 million in repairs," The Baltimore Sun, Friday, October 18, 2013.
  7. ^ Time capsule discovered at Baltimore's Washington Monument, Rob Roblin, wbaltv.com, October 30, 2014.
  8. ^ Baldwin, Brooke. "200-year-old time capsule discovered," CNN, Wednesday, February 18, 2015.
  9. ^ Historic cornerstone found at Washington Monument, Kate Amara, wbaltv.com, February 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  11. ^ "Baltimore National Heritage Area Map" (PDF). City of Baltimore. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 

External links[edit]