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Visitors get a view of the Capitol from the Washington Monument.

A couple peer at the U.S. Capitol from the top of the Washington Monument.

Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic

Johnna Rizzo

National Geographic

Published October 9, 2013

On October 9, 1888, the Washington Monument opened to the public. Today—on its 125th anniversary—no one can visit it. That's because the federal monument is located in a national park, and the U.S. government has been partially shut down.

A bit of a stutter is part of the monument's history. The 555-foot-tall obelisk, a tribute to George Washington's military might, was dedicated on February 21, 1885. But it didn't officially open until nearly four years later. Construction, which began in 1848, took 36 years and was interrupted by a lack of funds in 1854—when the monument was just over 150 feet tall—and didn't resume until 1876. By that time the same marble was no longer available, so there's a color change memorializing the delay. The monument's architect, Robert Mills, died 30 years before his vision was complete.

When the Washington Monument finally opened its elevator doors, tourists swarmed to what was then the tallest structure in the world. (The designation was short-lived: The 1,063-foot-tall Eiffel Tower took the title when it opened in 1889.) During the monument's early days, an estimated 55,000 visitors a month rode to the top.

National Geographic staff photographer B. Anthony Stewart captured this couple in the 1940s, peeking out the monument's observation windows at the U.S. Capitol on the other side of the National Mall.

36 comments
Sergio Herrera
Sergio Herrera

Si se fijan todo esta en la mente  del maestre 









Charles Dixon
Charles Dixon

When I was a kid, we used to race up and down the monument. Wanted to see who was fastest. D.C. was more of a town then. You could also go to the top of the capitol dome. I grew up at Seward Square. Four blocks from the capitol. 

Lord B.
Lord B.

Love the contrast in this B&W photo, and the burning in of the view is very well done!

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

A lovely picture. However, I always thought the monument was named after it's location. I never realised it commemorates George Washington. Thanks NG.

Archy Penco
Archy Penco

I'm sorry, but this is a terrible article. The monument was closed for repairs and would not be available to the public with or without a shutdown.


If you want to write an article celebrating it's anniversary, fine. If you want to write one about the shutdown, fine. If you want to write one about how shameful it is that our country is in disarray on a day we should be celebrating, fine.

But please don't tell me that this monument would be open today, if the shutdown hadn't happened --- because it's simply not true.


Davey Doughnut
Davey Doughnut

The democrats are ruining our country with their profligate spending and communist style redistribution of wealth. Support the Tea Party and starve them all out. The sooner we get our house in order the better off we'll all be. The Tea Party should be applauded for their efforts to rein in the criminal spending of congress. Sorry folks, if you want to turn us into a third world craphole keep spending the way you are. Don't make an effort to reduce the national debt and we'll be one in short order.

Jerry Cohen
Jerry Cohen

You cannot fund a complex government by picking little tiny bits at a time so as to make it seem okay when the whole house is falling down.  The GOPers have a sick strategy and I am happy the Senate has shown it for the fraud it is. It is a shame that the Congress cannot run the government for the people, instead of acting like it is some sort of a sick game.  Is Rep. Boehner's speaker position really more important than that of 800,000 dedicated civil servant workers? 

John C.
John C.

The House already passed a CR funding national parks, Obama and his Dem Senate let it sit there and languish. However, Obama did permit a rally of illegal immigrants on the Mall, so all shut downs are not equal apparently.

Harry Reid refuses to bring to the floor seven continuing resolutions, all passed by the House, all passed by wide and fairly bipartisan majorities (all or almost all of the Republicans, and another 20 or so House Democrats):

  1. Authorizing military chaplains to do their duties during the shutdown;
  2. Continuing appropriations for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for fiscal year 2014 (food stamps).
  3. Continuing appropriations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  4. Continuing appropriations for veterans benefits.
  5. Continuing appropriations for the National Institutes of Health.
  6. Continuing appropriations for National Park Service operations, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  7. Continuing appropriations of local funds of the District of Columbia.

Carlisle Roach
Carlisle Roach

This closure is simply ridiculous ; Our Congressional Representatives need to start doing the job for which they were elected , and stop being led by special interest groups. It appears to be : "If President Obama proposes it we oppose it"

Jonathan Nechin
Jonathan Nechin

My grandparents lived in D.C. in the 1950's and I remember that view when my parents took me to visit the monument

C ODonnell
C ODonnell

@Davey Doughnut If it were up to the Lipton party, they'd tear it and EVERY national monument down in the name of austerity.

Queued Queuedington
Queued Queuedington

@Davey Doughnut The Tea Party shouldn't be applauded for anything but representing the vast damage that can be done by pushing ignorance as a virtue.  For the love of God, just learn something about economics, and stop pretending that an economy is anything like a household budget.  It isn't, any more than a railroad is like a light bulb.

Mike Buccambuso
Mike Buccambuso

@Jerry Cohen Jerry, 86% of the government has not been affected.  Hate to brreak your bubble but the civil servant have already been told they will get all back pay - so you are complaining that they are on vacation.  Makes no sense.  The workers have been told to make this as painful as possible for the people.  And you support that thinking.

John C.
John C.

As the federal shutdown grinds on, Team Obama’s message to the American people is sadly consistent: Shove it — as painfully as possible.

Obama’s strategic sadism disregards regular Americans’ basic needs and tortures those who resist. And if this damages people, so what? “We are winning,” a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal. “It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown endures, “because what matters is the end result.”

The administration is scrambling over benefits that were denied to the bereaved families of at least 26 military servicemembers who died on duty since the October 1 shutdown. Despite Congress’s enacting and Obama’s signing pre-shutdown funding for military pay and family assistance, officials initially refused these grieving loved ones the travel and burial aid that Washington traditionally offers under such brutal circumstances. The GOP House voted unanimously Wednesday to restore this relief. After balking at first, the Democratic Senate followed suit Thursday. Until then, the private Fisher House is underwriting this support for the loved ones of these fallen heroes.

Rather than an innocent bureaucratic mix-up, this appears to be the latest example of Obama and company needlessly using the shutdown to hammer innocent Americans, blame Republicans, and advance Democratic campaign prospects between now and the 2014 midterm elections.

“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” a frustrated National Park Service (NPS) ranger told the Washington Times as the shutdown commenced. “It’s disgusting.”

While the NPS deployed personnel to oversee Tuesday’s Democrat-rich immigration-reform rally on the National Mall, it has pounded everyone not explicitly allied with Obama. In the shutdown’s early hours, NPS notoriously spent time and money to shutter the World War II Memorial and prevent wheelchair-bound nonagenarian veterans from touring this tribute to the Greatest Generation.

“This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances,” Representative Steven Palazzo (R., Miss.) stated. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would simply to let them through.” Palazzo phoned federal authorities on the veterans’ behalf and was stonewalled. “At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo told The Daily Caller, “but having talked with the officials, I can’t help but think this was politically motivated.”

If Obama were benevolent, he could have turned this to his political advantage.

The GOP closed the government, Obama could have said, but the people will keep it open. He could have invited volunteers from the American Legion to the Rotary Club to stand watch and assist visitors at the World War II monument, the Vietnam War Memorial, and other solemn sites. Americans would have rushed in to help. Instead, Mean Mr. Obama showers the people with inconvenience and obstruction.

At privately funded Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, the NPS has blockaded its parking lot. It closed the privately owned Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Va. Elderly citizens have been forced from their private homes on federal acreage on Lake Mead, in Nevada.

The NPS demanded the closure of San Francisco’s beautiful Cliff House, a 150-year-old restaurant with stunning Pacific views through its windows and savory food on its tables. Though privately funded, owned, and operated, it occupies federal land. So Washington demanded on Tuesday that it shut its doors. Cost: $10,000 in daily losses and 170 idle workers.

“While the local Park Service officials have been sympathetic and helpful in relaying Cliff House’s concerns to Park Service Headquarters in Washington DC,” the owners explained, “the decisions are driven by DC, which instructed that the facility must close. . . . The Cliff House had no choice but to close or face severe consequences,” as yet unspecified.

The NPS also scrapped the 30th annual LEAP Sandcastle Contest on adjacent Ocean Beach. “We were told that we could be fined for trespassing and that our permit was no longer valid,” organizers stated. “We were also told that our event could be shut down by park rangers or by San Francisco police.” San Francisco supervisor Eric Mar said Washington’s intransigence has led to “probably hundreds of very sad and unhappy kids.”

Team Obama is using the shutdown to squeeze non-uniformed Catholic priests who assist on-duty Catholic military chaplains. “With the government shutdown, many GS [general service] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work — not even to volunteer,” writes John Schlageter, general counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base, and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”

The Republican-controlled House voted 400 to 1 on October 5 to end this impasse and let outside priests worship with their military flocks. Alas, that bill is not en route to Obama for signature. Instead, it languishes in the Democratic Senate.

Until public outrage made them reactivate it, the Justice Department disabled its Amber Alert website, a repository of information on missing children. At the time, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move website remained online.

Yes, childhood obesity is rampant, and the First Lady correctly urges youngsters to exercise. However, missing children too often face fates far worse than being overweight. Leaving vanished and abducted girls and boys even more vulnerable — to score political points — may be the most revolting thing I have witnessed in 35 years of observing U.S. public affairs.

Obama’s current first-do-some-harm policy mirrors his harm offensive as budget sequestration began. Foreshadowing almost verbatim that park ranger’s recent remarks, a frustrated FAA staffer revealed last April, “The FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is.”

Thus, Obama subjected American travelers to airport delays and even toyed with air-traffic control until Congress forced officials to prioritize passenger safety and convenience. Obama planned to furlough federal food inspectors, and thus leave Americans vulnerable to spoiled meat, until Congress stopped him. And, soon before sequestration began on March 1, the Department of Homeland Security released 2,232 illegal-alien detainees, 629 of them convicted criminals.

All of this seemed intended to smear the GOP, although Americans soon found sequestration manageable. Today’s Obama-led agony also looks designed to generate public rage against Republicans, who have passed at least 18 bills to reopen the government and/or fund specific shutdown-hampered functions. Senate Democrats have ignored or defeated these measures, and even if they did pass them, Obama seems uninterested in signing them.

Obama is a presidential first: a sadist-in-chief who abuses the American people purely for partisan gain.

Queued Queuedington
Queued Queuedington

@John C. Sounds like you'd be pretty comfortable with a kidnapper keeping your wife and kids, as long as they ordered you a pizza you liked

John C.
John C.

@Carlisle Roach 

What's ridiculous is Obama closing national parks, except for the illegal immigrant rally he allowed on the Mall. The House has already passed a CR funding the parks, Obama won't sign it.  

Lord B.
Lord B.

@C ODonnell @Davey Doughnut You really should read up on the Tea Party & what they stand for before making stupid comments like this.

Mike Buccambuso
Mike Buccambuso

@Queued Queuedington @Davey Doughnut You have got to be kidding.  When you are spending a trillion more a year than you take in is a good thing?  When you say that increasing the amount the country can borrow does not increase that countries debt.  Then you are lying.  I know about debt, we have seen the affects of debt in coutries around the world.  Take off your blinders and introduce a little reality into your world. 

C ODonnell
C ODonnell

@John C. Amazing how right wingers point at everyone but those that shut it down in the first place. "Oh the President coulda/shoulda, etc, etc, and blah." THE LIPTONERS SHUT IT DOWN! Period!

Jerry Cohen
Jerry Cohen

@John C. There wouldn't be a problem nor a discussion if the GOPers would have just passed a clean CR in the first place or better yet a budget! They asked the Senate to pass a budget for the last several years, then they got one and will not even take it up for a vote.  Obama didn't cause this, nor the Senate.  It is the GOPers baby and they cannot crawl out of responsibility for the mess.

Queued Queuedington
Queued Queuedington

@Mike Buccambuso I didn't say anything of the sort.  I simply said that the Tea Party was wholly unworthy of praise.  What passes for fiscal responsibility from them is usually anything but.  Want to cut the military budget?  I'm all for it.  Want to pretend that mythical welfare queens are bleeding the country dry?  Pound sand, the numbers don't add up.

Jerry Cohen
Jerry Cohen

@Davey Doughnut @Jerry Cohen For several years Europe was implementing, in real time, exactly the policies that congressional Republicans fervently believe are the best strategy for boosting economic growth. In Europe it was called “austerity,” and it meant cutting deficits, slashing spending, and chipping away at all those goodies the social welfare state provides.  And guess what? It didn't work. Compared with the United States, Europe went into shambles.  

This over-fixation on spending to the neglect of infrastructure, education, science, and discovery will turn us into a mirror image of Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (aka PIGS).  This so-called 'out of control spending' is the GOPer big lie.

Davey Doughnut
Davey Doughnut

@Jerry Cohen 

They're not going to get a clean CR. Someone has to hold Congress' feet to the fire to deal with the out of control spending. Most of the people I know don't care if it hairlips the Governor. Go Tea Party!!

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