Washington Monument

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2 15th St NW, Washington, D.C.  20024

In Advise and Consent:

“Here between the Capitol and the town he stood suspended between the two parts of his life, the great floodlit building above, and below, when he turned to stare down the Mall, the imperial needle of the Washington Monument, the lower mas of the Lincoln Memorial, the glow of the city, the dim hills of Virginia … and the White House, distant and almost lost amid the haze of lights and the soft concealment of the trees.

Almost lost.… Almost lost. Why did he not be honest with himself and say, completely? For it was, he knew it now, there had never really been the slightest doubt in his heart of hearts what he was going to do. He had gone through the hours since receiving the President’s offer as though he were sleepwalking; and each new rebuff he had received from those he had counted on to help him in his time of greatest need had simply confirmed his strange impression that somehow it was all something in a dream, that he was wandering out of bounds on the edge of destiny and sooner or later would have to wake up.”  Page i1481

In Real Life:

It’s fitting that Senator Orrin Knox is looking over the Washington Monument at the moment he’s making a big decision in Advise and Consent.  He’s struggling with his conscience.  I can’t be sure but I bet Allen Drury did it on purpose.  He probably wanted Knox to consider our most celebrated Founding Father, George Washington, the first President of the United States, while he was trying to determine if he should sell his vote for the promise of that office. Anyway – that passage certainly serves as an invitation to get over to the Washington Monument.  And, I would have – if it had been open – but it was closed for repairs until Spring of 2019.

Even if you can’t go into the monument – it’s still something you’re forced to reckon with as your eyes sweep the skyline of Washington D.C. The Founding Fathers didn’t really have that in mind exactly when they decided they wanted to build a monument and dedicate it to President George Washington. They just wanted something – but Washington scrapped the plan because he said it would cost too much money. Later – in 1833, a loose confederation of Washingtonians created the Washington National Monument Society to come up with a plan to build one. They held a contest and picked an architect – Robert Mills – and in 1848 the first cornerstone went in.  The monument went up 150 feet over the next six years but then funds ran out. Then came the Civil War – another non-starter. However, when the nation reunited – everyone wanted to get back to work on that nub of an obelisk. The Army Corp of Engineers took over the task but had trouble matching the stone. The original stone came from a quarry in Baltimore, Maryland but it was out of business. They brought in stone from a Massachusetts quarry but realized it was a different shade of white. Then, they went back to Maryland stone – which is yet another shade – so the monument is three different shades of white.

I caught glimpses of the monument as I wandered around the city and from my various vantage points – I couldn’t detect the shades of white.  However, the straight tall obelisk – sends a clear message – it’s a touchstone, a reminder that you’re in the nation’s capital. But it also conjures up the man it’s named for – tall, sturdy and unshakable. Washington was a force to be reckoned with – not just for the British but for the men with whom he fought the British to create this nation.

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