The history of the Washington Monument’s elevator is proof that what goes up…might get stuck halfway down.
October 9, 1888
A steam-powered lift starts ferrying passengers. It takes about ten minutes to reach the top—a figure cut in half three years later when it’s replaced by an electric version.
August 7, 1949
After a suicide—not the first such death at the monument—safety screens are installed at the top of the elevator shaft.
August 23, 2011
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake hits Washington, damaging the elevator. The monument is closed to visitors for nearly three years.
May 12, 2014
It finally reopens. Then two days later, the lift goes kaput. Over the next two years, it’s on the fritz another 24 times.
August 17, 2016
A cable snaps, leaving tourists stranded. It’s the third elevator snafu in a week. The monument shuts for three years of repairs.
September 19, 2019
It’s back! But two days later—yes, just like in 2014—the elevator acts up yet again. Visitors are stranded for an hour.
November 20, 2019
Faulty sensors shut the elevator for the second time in a week. Will things never start to look up?
This article appears in the January 2020 issue of Washingtonian.