It’s weird seeing one of the most historic buildings in the United States go dark suddenly. This was the case at the Washington Monument last night. The lights that illuminate the structure each night went out, causing passersby to rush onto Instagram and share their unique view.
National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said that the lighting system’s clock was likely out of synchronization, causing the malfunction.
The blackout didn’t last long, but it elucidated the structure’s long term issues mostly due to its age. On December 2, 2016, the National Park Service announced that the monument would be closed until 2019 in order to modernize the elevator. It’s expected to be a $2 to 3 million project that will correct the elevator’s issues (electrically, mechanically, and computer wise). If there was any doubt about whether the structure was deserving of these expensive upgrades, last night’s blackout was a sign of the monument’s vulnerability.
The construction of a monument in honor of first President George Washington was proposed very early on. But the first real step towards creation didn’t happen until the 100th anniversary of Washington’s birth, in 1832. Four years later, the first mock-up of the structure was created.
It would go through several iterations before the obelisk was finalized. In 1848, workers began building the Washington Monument’s foundation. On July 4, 1850, the adopted son of George Washington dedicated a stone from the people of the District of Columbia to the Monument. President Zachary Taylor attended the ceremony but would die of food poisoning five days later.
Construction was put on hold during the Civil War. In the early 1870’s, engineers re-examined the foundation to ensure it could still be completed. By 1885, the Washington Monument was completed. It would open to the public in 1888.
Fast forward over a hundred years and the monument remains standing, albeit not without significant renovations. In 2004, it closed for a $15 million upgrade, much of which was meant to improve security following the September 11th attacks. On August 23, 2011 there was a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia that caused additional damage to the structure. This event exposed several structural deficiencies that needed to be rectified.
If you were planning a trip to the top in 2017, we are sorry to say that you’ll have to put it on hold a couple more years. Surely, it will be well worth the wait.