The One, The Only

In the fall of 2013 the Washington Monument wore a cloak of metal scaffolding.
In the fall of 2013 the Washington Monument wore a cloak of metal scaffolding.

Tourists who come to Washington, D.C., to view the significant sights have their work cut out for them.

The city has no shortage of museums, memorials and historic sites. But one of them has been out of commission for the last couple of years.

Since the summer of 2011, when a rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the city and damaged several local landmarks, the Washington Monument has been swathed in a giant web of scaffolding while repairs were underway. Tourists during this time have had to be content with viewing the 555-foot-tall obelisk from the outside. But now the long wait is over, and they can get in line to ride up to the top and take in the view from the tallest structure in the city.

Whoop de doo!

I went up there once as a kid. If you live around here it’s one of those things you’re expected to do. Like visiting the Statue of Liberty if you’re a New Yorker, I imagine.

I have to say, the Lady’s view tops that of George’s. Washington is a pretty city to see on foot, in places. The river adds a lot. And there’s the Capitol and the White House and the Smithsonian Castle. But most of the scenic sights in D.C. are better viewed up close and personal.

Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Washington Monument is the top icon of the city. Even though it’s sort of…how can I put this? Boring. There. I said it.

I mean, compared to the Lincoln Memorial, or the Jefferson Memorial, or the rambling Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Washington Monument is just a pointy white pile of stone. And even if it is the most recognizable landmark in the city, that distinction has been maintained mostly through legislation that restricts the height of new construction inside the city.

Paris has its own similar restriction, enacted after a developer built the enormous and none-too-lovely Tour Montparnasse, which tops out at 689 feet, a bit higher than George’s pile. Of course, Paris’s defining sight is la Tour Eiffel, which, at more than 1,000 feet tall, would dwarf the Washington Monument if they happened to share the same turf.

But the Washington Monument is our own pointy place, and it was missed while it was convalescing, so when it reopened to the public today there was hoopla, and gladness in some hearts.

After all, the Washington Monument is unique in our fair city. Because while we have oodles of memorials, we have only one monument.

It’s big, it’s white, it’s not exactly thrilling, but it’s back in business.