wash 1Creativecommons.org/Ron Cogswell

When it opened in 1884, the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world. Fast forward to 2011 and the national monument had to close its doors for repairs, following damage caused by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake.

But the good news is that, after 32 months, this landmark monument has now been completely restored, and the National Park Service has once again begun operating tours to the very top of the awe-inspiring obelisk.

wash 4Creativecommons.org/Mark Scrobola

This truly is an incredible structure, made up of some 36,491 blocks, weighing 81,120 tonnes and featuring 193 stones on interior walls that were presented by individuals, societies, states, cities and countries from around the world.

Located a the very centre of the National Mall, the Washington Monument takes pride of place between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, just east of the iconic Reflecting Pool. And whereas it may no longer be the tallest building in the world – that title belongs to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – at 169-metres-tall, it is still the world’s tallest obelisk.

wash 2Creativecommons.org/Mark Scrobola

TODAY show weather anchor Al Roker joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, National Park Service director Jonathan B Jarvis, philanthropist David Rubenstein and National Mall & Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel at the celebration of the reopening of the Monument. Roker served as master of ceremonies and was joined by American Idol Season 12 winner Candice Glover, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, the United States Navy Band and the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir.

 “The construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848 when private citizens raised money to build a memorial to our first president, and now it has been repaired thanks in great part to the generosity of another private citizen and philanthropist, David Rubenstein, through the auspices of the Trust for the National Mall,” Secretary Jewell said. “This enduring spirit of public-private partnership has made it possible for visitors to once again enjoy the unmatched view of the city named after George Washington from the top of the memorial built in his honour.”

wash 3Creativecommons.org/Mark Scrobola

The monument was built to honour George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the U.S. The structure was designed by Robert Mills, with construction beginning in 1848. Construction was halted from 1854 to 1877, due to the Know Nothing Party’s rise to control of the Washington National Monument Society through an illegal election, lack of funding and the Civil War. It was completed in 1884 by Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. An elevator was added to the monument in 1889, which shuttles tourists to the top of the monument to this day. A restoration project was carried out from 1998 to 2002, and a $15 million renovation was completed from 2004-2005.

The monument is free to visit day or night.