Oct. 9: Washington Monument opened to public on this day in 1888; 125 years later, it’s closed


(Photo credit: John Griffiths, Flickr)

Architect Robert Mills' original design called for a colonnade at the base, topped with Washington on a chario …

One of the most enduring architectural symbols of America, the Washington Monument, opened to the public exactly 125 years ago today, on Oct. 9, 1888.

Not that it's open to the public at the moment. What with government shutdowns on the one hand and earthquake repairs on the other, times are tough if you're the Washington Monument.

On the bright side, the monument gets to wow the town clad in slinky, specially designed scaffolding. (Scroll down to see more photos below the video on this page.)

Here are a few fun facts to tide you over until the monument reopens (estimated to happen in spring 2014, assuming the government is running by then):

• The monument has been closed since August 2011, when an earthquake cracked and shifted some of its marble blocks.

• The temporary scaffolding looks so dramatic that some consider it an artwork in itself -- and in fact, an editor of Architect magazine has (slightly cynically, we think) called for it to remain permanently. Famed architect and designer Michael Graves devised the scaffolding for a preservation project 15 years ago; it was recycled this time because of its popularity back then.

• At night, 488 lamps on the scaffolding illuminate the obelisk (and will continue to do so even during the shutdown). Six thousand pieces of scaffolding are attached to the monument in exactly zero places; instead, wood boards against the monument stabilize the frame.

• The architect's original plan in the 1800s called for a colonnade surrounding the base, bearing namesake George Washington atop a chariot. The architect supposedly complained that absent such a colonnade, the monument would look like "a stalk of asparagus."

• A discernible line about a quarter of the way up the monument marks where work stopped for about 20 years. Why the long construction break? You'll never guess. Politics and money problems.

Stereoview of the partially completed monument. (Credit: StreetsofWashington, Flickr)

Harvest moon. (Photo credit: Marc Benton, Flickr)

(Photo credit: Andrew, aka Black Stove, Flickr)

(Photo credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr)

On This Day, previously:

Oct. 8: A look at Matt Damon's house on his 43rd birthday
Oct. 7: A look at East Germany's split-personality architecture on anniversary of its founding
Oct. 4: Debut of suburban icon 'Leave It to Beaver' and its opposite, '90210'
Oct. 1: Revisiting Walt Disney's futuristic suburban dream on EPCOT anniversary
Sept. 11: Groundbreaking on Pentagon in 1941; here's why it's shaped that way

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