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News & Politics

Here’s Why the Washington Monument’s Lights Went Out Sunday Night

This is not what the Monument looked like on Sunday. Photo via iStock.

The National Park Service didn’t do much Sunday night to help DC chill out after an…eventful January.

The results of that investigation? A faulty timer that turns on the lights every night and off every morning, NPS spokesperson Mike Litterst tells Washingtonian in an email. Until electricians can replace the busted time clock, “the lights will be operated manually to ensure the monument is lit each night,” he says.

In fact, Litterst says, it’s not unheard of for the monument’s lights to go out: “Sometimes it’s the timer, sometimes it’s a breaker gets tripped, sometimes it’s a loss of power from PEPCO – pretty much like your house, only a lot more noticeable when it happens!”

The red aviation lights above the obelisk’s windows date to 1958. They are on a separate power source and were unaffected by Sunday’s outage. “I only remember one time when they went out; we notified FAA and they were not concerned,” he says.

NPS announced on Saturday that the monument would remain closed; officials made the decision to close it before President Biden’s inauguration, citing “credible threats to visitors and park resources.” It will remain closed to prevent the spread of covid, the Park Service said. Before its January closure, the monument shuttered in December after now-former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt gave a private tour to other Trump administration officials and later tested positive for coronavirus.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.