The monuments of Washington D.C. are the world’s most recognizable landmarks, and their glory attracts visitors from all corners of the world. Such landmarks as the Washington Monument also demonstrate the glory of engineering thought, and represent interesting cases through which one can study the history of technological advancements of the United States. Thus, studying the Nation’s Capital is impossible without a person who is skilled not only in its history but also has interest and dedication to learning technologies of the past centuries. With my love for details and passion for finding interesting technical information about the world’s well-known sights, I would like to spotlight some unknown historical facts behind the most famous monument in Washington D.C.
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The Washington Monument and the History of its Erection
For instance, few people know that the history of the Washington Monument, one of the most visited sights of the Nation’s Capital, hides a significant number of technical hardships related to its erection. Construction of the monument was begun in 1848 at the initiative of the Washington Monuments Society (Le et al. 56). In 1878, the erection was continued after solving certain financial issues, but the marble quarry of Thomas Symington, which supplied marble, stopped working long ago. New marble from Hugh Sission’s quarry began to change its color. Today, the differences between the two species are visible to the naked eye and serve as a reminder of the history of the monument.
Access to the Top of the Washington Monument
To provide access to the top of the monument outside, a special hatch was installed at a distance of three feet from the top. In order not to build bulky constructions around the monument when carrying out cosmetic repairs, climbers go out through this access hatch and move up and down using special ropes and carbines. This method allowed scientists to conduct studies of the monument for structural damage after an earthquake in 2011.
The Search of Engineering Solution for Lightning Protection
In 1884, the knowledge of scientists about the properties of electricity already gave a clear understanding that a freestanding high structure would attract lightning, and, therefore, special protection was required. The installation of a special aluminum pyramidion seemed to be an excellent solution to the engineers of that time. It was supposed to dissipate a powerful electric charge. After six months of operation, it became clear that the pyramidion could not cope with the task, as its top was shortened by almost a centimeter, melted by electrical discharges. A special spiked collar was installed around the peak to dispel lightning. In 2013, the collar was replaced by two rods, and the pyramidion remains in place, although it does not fulfill its functions.
The Unknown Copy of the Monument
Not many people know that just in a few steps from the monument stands its 12-foot copy, hidden under the hatch. This object, which repeats the shape of the famous monument is the control survey point. Measurements were taken with its help after the 2011 earthquake, showing that over the last century, the Washington Monument has dropped by 6.2 centimeters. It means that the flooding process is developing at a speed of 0.5 millimeters per year (Shahidi et al. 240).
The city of Washington is the best place to get acquainted with American culture, history, and traditions. Nonetheless, learning them is impossible without understanding the scientific and technological background of the studied period. The most famous monument in the United States represents not only the glory of certain historic events but also the scientific and technological achievements of the times when the construction was erected. Thus, learning the history of Washington D.C. is impossible without spotlighting the technical sights behind the creation of well-known objects. Being passionate about technology studies, I am the best fit to highlight the unknown facts about the history of the Nation’s Capital.
Le, Lena, et al. “Exploring African, American, Latino, And Asian Motivations to Visit a Heritage Site: A Case Study of George Washington Carver National Monument.” Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, pp.55-71.
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Shahidi, S. Golnaz, et al. “Behavior and Damage of the Washington Monument during 2011 Mineral, Virginia, Earthquake.” Special Paper of the Geological Society of America, vol. 509, 2015, pp. 235-252.