While no other U.S. monument to George Washington is as tall or impressive as the 555-foot-high obelisk located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., two are actually older. Both are located in Maryland, and both reflect the history of the times and dedication of admiring citizens.
The first completed monument to the father of our country, dating to 1827, is a rugged stone tower found at the summit of South Mountain inside Washington Monument State Park. Appropriately, the park and monument are located in Western Maryland’s Washington County.
The second oldest is a 178-foot-tall Doric column sitting in the center of Mt. Vernon Square in Baltimore. The cornerstone was laid in 1815, but construction was not completed until 1829.
The Washington Monument in the nation’s capital is, in actuality, the “baby sister” of the three monuments.
Towering above every building around it and surrounded by a circle of 50 American flags at its base, D.C.’s Washington Monument is indeed a sight to behold. Designed by architect Robert Mills in 1848, the obelisk was eventually completed in 1884 by Thomas Carey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On Aug. 22, 2011, an earthquake damaged the marble and granite symbol and it did not reopen to visitors until May 12, 2014.
Baltimore’s monument renovated
The “middle sister,” Baltimore’s Washington Monument, began with the laying of a cornerstone on July 4, 1815. The top of the column boasts a sculpture of George Washington that commemorates the resignation of his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army before Congress as it met in the Annapolis State House in 1783.
“The discovery of the monument’s cornerstone during the recent $5.5 million restoration, and its contents, suggest that to those who laid (it)… the monument was also a symbol of American national independence,” noted Lance Humphries, of the Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy.
The renovated monument will be rededicated on its bicentennial, July 4, 2015, with a family-fun festival featuring hands-on crafts, old-fashioned games, live music, and picnic-style food concessions.
Oldest monument leads to plenty of activities
Still, the “oldest sister” of this monumental triad is Washington County’s offering, which endures with dignity to this day.
Early on the morning of July 4, 1827, the citizens of Boonsboro, Md., gathered at the town square. With the American Flag to lead them and a fife and drum corps to accompany their robust marching, a group 500-strong headed up the mountain to a designated spot and began, stone by stone, to erect their tribute to the father of our country. Upon completion of the task, the stone tower, on it 54-foot circular base, stood a proud 30-feet high.
Visitors to the historic tower in Washington Monument State Park are in for a satisfying outdoor adventure.
“When you hike the half mile from the parking area to the monument, you will be walking on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the first scenic trail in the country,” said Dan Spedden, who promotes Washington County.
On the site, there is a museum featuring historic artifacts relating to the Washington Monument as well as to the Civil War’s Battle of South Mountain.
Insider tip: Backpackers and trail hikers are accommodated free at nearby Dahlgren Campground. The quaint and historic South Mountain Inn was once the estate of Adm. John A. Dahlgren and today it is one of the oldest, continually operated public houses on the National Road.
South of this site is Crystal Grottos, the only commercially operated natural cavern in Maryland, which
this year opened a new section of the cavern and installed LED lighting to enhance the experience.
The town of Boonsboro remains a delightful place to explore while staying a night or two at Inn BoonsBoro, a small luxury hotel owned by writer Nora Roberts and located on the very same square where citizens gathered almost 200 years ago. Big Cork Vineyards is in nearby Rothersville. The area is also home to Antietam National Battlefield and Fort Frederick, a French and Indian War-era stone fort.
“You could put a whole vacation together here (with) history, baseball, auto racing, outdoor adventure, shopping, and dining — we’ve got a lot to offer,” Spedden said.
Including, of course, the nation’s first Washington Monument.
For more information:
Washington Co. Tourism: visithagerstown.com