as soon as upon a time, you might walk every 898 actions to the peak of the Washington Monument. Yet no longer. Health comes to led the nationwide Park service to near the stairs totally in 1976. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
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ago in the day, my finest friend and also I provided to journey the Greyhound downtown and also go to the Washington Monument. We in reality climbed to the top and climbed ago down. I understand that it is no longer feasible to carry out this. Why go this change? It supplied to it is in a fun thing to do. And also every 3rd or fourth landing had a resting bench. Have the right to nobody store up anymore?

Ann van Aken, Fairfax

Have you not heard, Ann? Today’s obese, out-of-shape Americans deserve to barely climb right into their SUVs without passing out from overexertion. Have the right to you imagine what would occur if castle tried to climb the 898 actions it bring away to get to the optimal of the Washington Monument?

In fact, that was involves over health and wellness that finished routine accessibility to the obelisk’s stairs. And also that was method back in the 1970s, prior to we’d every blimped up. A worrying variety of people were experiencing heart assaults during the rise or injuring us in falls throughout the descent.


According to the nationwide Park Service’s Mike Litterst, the procedures of the Washington Monument were closed because that walking up in 1971, and then closed altogether — up and also down — in 1976.

There were occasional exceptions, such as distinct ranger-led tours the took visitors previous the 190 sculpted memorial stones within the shaft. (Those tours stopped after the 2011 earthquake; the Park business is hope they may at some point resume.)

Mike said he started working in ~ the monument in the summer the 1983. The “closure was still recent enough that many, many visitors remembered once they to be open and also asked about it,” he wrote me in one e-mail.

The Washington Monument opened up to the public in 1888. The 1893 Rand, mac line travel guide to Washington noted: “A staircase that 900 actions wends its method to the top, about an internal shaft of steel pillars, in which the elevator runs; few people walk up, however many people descend the way.”

The an initial elevator — steam-powered — took seven minutes come ascend. In 1909, the superintendent of public buildings detailed that about 1 in 10 civilization visiting the monument preferred to to walk up, though the percentage varied by month.

He found it curious the a greater percentage of people climbed up throughout August than throughout April.

Perhaps that was because of the coolness the the marble monument’s interior. Follow to a Washington Post post headlined “Cool spot on hot Day,” released Aug. 4, 1901: “Not a torrid day passes but dozens the people, including, frequently, whole families, camp the end on the monument stair or in those environment-friendly benches about the elevator base solely for the purpose of obtaining cool and keeping cool. Together a preeminence they carry their lunches.”


The story quoted a watchman: “If castle don’t do too lot of a mess v throwing papers and stuff about we let them eat in here.”

Such to be the days prior to air conditioning.

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In 1939, the portion of world preferring to rise to the top had actually dropped a statistically trivial one point, to 9 percent.

Some civilization had to climb, even if it is they wanted to or not. In January 1959, the elevator was shut down for repairs, forcing guys working ~ above the device at the peak to hoof it. “It’s 898 actions to the top. I’ve counted each and every among them,” Ralph Johnson, foreman because that the Otis Elevator Co., called The Post.

It was estimated that the long climb was tantamount to 46 stories. Lock positioned an armchair at the 250-foot level. “Anyone who provides it that far deserves come sit down and also rest,” stated mechanic E.L. White.

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The expedition took about 20 minutes approximately the top and 10 minutes down. The ironworkers, carpenters and also electricians functioning on the renovation generally took your lunch up v them for this reason they wouldn’t have to do it twice.

Among the workers, a 23-year-old called Jerry Zettle was the quickest. That made the round pilgrimage in 18 minutes — 11 up and seven down — sent out on one errand through his boss.