Perched on a hilltop in rural Maryland, a stubby tower claims the honor of being the first monument to founding father George Washington. The First Washington Monument was completed in 1827 and predates the D.C. obelisk by half a century.
Rather incredibly, the First Washington Monument was built by local residents in a single day. Some 500 Boonsboro residents assembled in the town square at 7:30 a.m. on July 4, 1827, and trekked two miles up to the hilltop. Work proceeded efficiently using stones gathered from the hillside, quickly dry set into place without mortar. By 4:00 p.m. the citizens had completed a 15-foot-tall tower and stood back to admire their handiwork.
According to a contemporary observer, “At the conclusion of our labors, about 4 o’clock, the Declaration of Independence was read from one of the steps of the monument, preceded by some prefatory observations, after which several salutes of infantry were fired, when we all returned to town in good order.”
The First Washington Monument has been frequently expanded, patched up and reconstructed over the years. Within five months of its completion, work resumed vertically and the tower rose to its present height of 30 feet. It was later restored in 1882, and again by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.
Like its taller, more svelte cousin farther south in our nation’s capital, visitors can view the surrounding scenery from the top of the monument. No elevator here though, just a spiral stone stairway up through the center.