Washington Monument, Washington DC

The Washington Monument, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Collection.

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The monument in 2012:

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Ever notice how the bottom third of the Washington Monument is a few shades lighter than the upper part?  The top photo shows why. Taken by noted Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, it shows the monument during the long stoppage in construction.  The construction started in 1848, and made it about 150 feet up by 1854, when work was halted, at first due to fundraising issues and later because of the Civil War.  Construction resumed in 1877, and was completed in 1884, at the height of 555 feet.  It was topped off with a 100-ounce aluminum apex.  At the time, aluminum was a precious metal, and it also served as a lightning rod.

Lincoln Memorial Dedication, Washington DC

The view from the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 1922. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

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The same view in 2006:

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The dedication of the Lincoln Memorial attracted quite a crowd, which contrasts with the dreary, deserted view of the same scene 84 years later.  Other than the people, though, the scene remains similar. The Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool are still there, although the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings, barely visible beyond the trees to the left in 1922, are long gone now.

Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument, Washington DC

The view of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30, 1922, the day that it was dedicated, from the Washington Monument. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection.

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The same view in 2006:

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Both the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool are iconic images of Washington DC, but in 1922 they were brand new features on previously swampy, vacant land.  Today they remain largely the same, but the surrounding area has changed. Across the river, the city of Arlington has been built up, and two bridges are now visible in the scene, connecting it to DC.  In DC itself, one obvious difference is the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings, which are on the right-hand side of the photo.  The “temporary” buildings were built in 1918, but they remained in use until 1970, when they were demolished and replaced with the Constitution Gardens as seen in the 2006 photo.

White House from the Washington Monument

The view of the White House, as seen from the top of the Washington Monument between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Aerial Views

The same view in 2006:

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Unlike the view looking slightly northwest of here, there have not been many dramatic changes in this photo. The White House is there, as are the two wings (although both the main building and the wings have been extensively gutted and remodeled in the intervening century), and the Old Executive Office Building (left of the White House) and the Treasury Building (right of the White House) are still there, as are the landscaping features such as the Ellipse in the foreground.  Otherwise, the appearance of the city, given skyscrapers are not permitted, remains much the same as it did 100 years ago.

Looking northwest from the Washington Monument

The view from the top of the Washington Monument, taken between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in February, 2006:

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Both photos are taken looking almost directly down Virginia Ave., but other than the street network, not much remains from the early 1900s photo.  As least two buildings are identifiable in both: the white building in the lower right, and the building to the right of it (which is barely visible in the first photo).  They are the Organization of American States and the Daughters of the American Revolution buildings, respectively.  Otherwise, the area looks remarkably sparse in the first photo, primarily because most of the land in the foreground did not exist before the 1880s, when the Potomac River was dredged, and the dredged material used to fill in this area to address flooding issues.  The Constitution Gardens, visible in the lower left of the 2006 photo, would not exist for another 70 years.  Shortly after the first photo was taken, the Navy built temporary offices during World War I.  These “temporary” offices lasted into the 1970s, when they were demolished to create the pond and parkland visible today.