Upon its dedication in 1885, the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world: imposing, awe-inspiring and unfinished.
Much of DC’s urban planning was designed around a planned monument to Washington. In 1845, the Washington National Monument Society accepted a design by Robert Mills: an ornate, 600-foot Egyptian-style obelisk surrounded by 30 100-foot columns representing the 30 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
After Mills passed and funding was depleted, the monument stood incomplete until 1876. The Army Corps of Engineers stepped in with an innovative steam-powered elevator, completing the obelisk portion. Hardly decorators, the engineers left the monument plain.