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Washington Monument reopening after 3 years: How to get tickets

The Washington Monument is set to open to tourists after three long years.

The 555-foot marble obelisk honoring America’s first president reopens Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT after a three-year renovation project that included an update to its elevator system and built a new security screening facility.

Free same-day tickets for visits through Oct. 18 are available on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 8:30 a.m. To obtain tickets, visit the Washington Monument Lodge. 

For tours beyond Oct. 19, you can reserve tickets at www.recreation.gov. beginning Oct. 10 at 10 a.m. EDT.

Despite being out of commission, the monument still played a role in the capital’s observation of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in July. Footage of the Apollo 11 mission was projected onto its facade at nightfall.

The monument was designed by South Carolina architect Robert Mills and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in two phases, the first of which was privately funded. 

According to the National Park Service, the widows of two Founding Fathers — Dolley Madison (wife of James Madison, the fourth president author of the Bill of Rights) and Eliza Hamilton — were among the 20,000 people who witnessed the laying of its first cornerstone on July 4, 1848.  The latter helped raise funds to build the monument, a fact noted in the closing moments of the hit musical about her husband, Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first treasury secretary. (From the interior, visitors can see 193 commemorative stones, many from the project’s early donors.) 

Also on hand: Washington’s step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, then-president James K. Polk and three future presidents: James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln.

In 2000, U.S. Park Service conservator Judy Jacob showed members of the press some of the restoration work done on the 193 commemorative stones on the inside of the Washington Monument. These particular stones are at the 140-foot level, where the color of the stone changes.

Construction continued until 1854 when men associated with the Know-Nothing Party, a xenophobic and anti-Catholic political group,

seized the reins at the Washington Monument Society, alienating donors and sending it into bankruptcy, the National Park Service noted. At the time construction shut down, the monument was less than halfway finished, standing just 156 feet above ground. Making matters worse, Mills died the following year and efforts to jump start construction failed in the face of the looming Civil War.


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