The Washington Monument is open to the public for the first time in nearly three years. The obelisk was closed for renovations after a 2011 earthquake left it unsafe for public visits. More than 16,00 tickets have been reserved to tour the monument since construction crews finished repairing the monument’s cracked and damaged stones
But, if some 19th-century architects had had their way, the monument would look a lot different than it does today. Below are some original designs for the monument. Some of them aren’t pretty.
Then again, maybe some people would prefer if our national obelisk looked different. As my colleague Brian Resnick wrote last year, The New York Times ran a withering review of the monument after it opened in 1886. “As a work of art the monument is entitled to neither more nor less consideration than a factory chimney, the ugliness of which is pardoned only for the useful purpose which it subserves,” the author wrote.
The architect Robert Mills designed what was originally supposed to become the monument (seen at left, below) in 1846. No, the top of the obelisk isn’t cut off — that’s how it was supposed to look. The design also featured a pantheon at the monument’s base. On the right is an alternate conception for the monument, designed by Henry R. Searle in 1877.
William Wallace designed the monument below left, which depicts George Washington standing atop a globe. At right, a Gothic revival-style monument.
Three more Gothic-type designs that were proposed for the monument.
A certificate given to donors for the Washington National Monument Society.
Well, look at this squat fellow, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1799.
And, apropos of nothing, here’s a cartoon of Uncle Sam bellowing, “No more of these hideous monuments!” The illustration was published in 1885, the year the monument was officially completed.
Really, though, can you blame him?