When completed in 1884, the Washington Monument stood at 555 feet and 5 and 1/8 inches, the tallest obelisk in the world. But a measurement this week docked about 10 inches off the height of the monument, even if it did remain the tallest structure of its kind.
New technology allowed the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to measure the monument at 554 feet 7 and 11/32 inches. Today’s engineers also use different measurement standards than were used when the structure was completed.
Time reported that engineers measured from the “lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance” to the structure’s peak. It is not clear what standard engineers used when the monument was first built.
“We have to be cautious in comparing this new height to the historic one, since we do not know precisely the actual starting point that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Thomas Casey used in 1884,” said Dru Smith, a NOAA scientist. “Today’s elevation reflects the international standards for measurement of a building’s height as well as considerable technological improvements.”
The Washington Post reported that the actual difference in the Washington Monument’s height in the 13 decades since it was completed is about three-eighths of an inch, likely due to weather at the top.
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