Washington DC, A to Z: Washington Monument Alternative Viewpoint

There are very few places in Washington DC to get a view of the city from up high.

In 1910, the 61st United States Congress enacted a new height restriction law limiting building heights to 130 feet, or the width of the right-of-way of the street or avenue on which a building fronts, whichever is shorter.

The Washington Monument (technically not a building) is 555 feet tall. When it was built in 1884 it was the tallest structure in the world. That lasted about 5 years. It is still the tallest structure in Washington DC.

One of the things we wanted  to do during our vacation in DC, but couldn’t, was to go up the elevator in the  Washington Monument for an aerial view of the city. Unfortunately, while we were there it was  closed for the final stages of restoration from the earthquake of 2011*.  Click here to see videos of the damage and, at the bottom of the page, 3 videos shot by security cameras during the earthquake.

The  Cross family from Michigan was at the top of the Washington Monument when the quake struck. They said that they felt the 555 foot monument sway nearly a foot, and said they felt pieces of the monument falling on them. ABC News

*This is the same earthquake that damaged the Cathedral (see Gargoyle post for more information). They were the only buildings in DC damaged.

Washington Monument, March 2014
Getting Its Cracks Fixed

The Pilgrim Observation Gallery at the National Cathedral is only 150 feet high but the Cathedral is built on  high hill. Tour groups aren’t allowed on the elevator. Large windows provide unobstructed 360-degree views.  I only saw 5 other people when I was up there!

Washington DC Skyline
Capitol to Washington Monument
Photo taken from Pilgrim Observation Gallery, Washington National Cathedral
View of Washington DC from Pilgrim Observation Gallery

In the picture above:

The Washington Monument is scheduled to reopen on May 12, 2014. Reservations can be made online at Recreation.gov . When I tested the site last night select times were available for May 20 – May 22, May 30, June 2-3, June 5-6. (You can reserve further out than that, but I stopped clicking on “next available date”).

10 thoughts on “Washington DC, A to Z: Washington Monument Alternative Viewpoint

  1. I didn't know the monument was damaged in the earthquake. I remember sitting in my office talking to a creditor and I felt the rumble and could see the bricks of the wall move in a roll like pattern. The creditor was in the next city and I told her we just had an earthquake and she experience it 30 sec later. Great pictures of the city.


  2. It had something to do with when the ground shifts, towers twist. When I lived in Oregon, there was an earthquake in the night and my bed started moving. It was a very strange experience for someone from the Midwest. I don't think I would have been still on the phone if it happened during the day.


  3. We may be going to D.C. this fall, so I'm glad to hear it'll be reopening soon! Although…elevators make me a little nervous. I still remember the terrifying ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I'm just not an elevator person, I guess!


  4. I'm terrified of heights but I always go to the top of buildings when visiting cities. I don't remember much about going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I have pictures from doing so. Maybe it was so scary that I blocked it from my memory.


  5. Proof that it's impossible to do even half of what you want to do in a week visit to DC. I didn't even step into the Hirshhorn. And fortunately I have an app on my phone with word prediction. My phone, not I, remembered how to spell it from the post for T.


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