Watt’s up: Washington Monument lights get a boost

September 20, 2019

It’s not only the inside of the Washington Monument that’s getting an upgrade.

Just a day after the Washington Monument reopened to the public, the National Park Service announced Friday that the 555-foot tall obelisk’s exterior lighting is getting a boost that should make nighttime viewing even more impressive.

The NPS has partnered with Musco Lighting to more evenly and uniformly distribute light across the Egyptian-inspired monument. That means the pyramidion at the top is going to be a lot brighter.

According to a news release, the new lighting utilizes LED light source technology, which can achieve better precision and control, directing more of the available light onto the monument’s surface and spilling less around it.

“Musco Lighting’s generous donation illuminates the newly reopened Washington Monument with the brilliance befitting one of our nation’s most iconic memorials,” said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, in the release. “We are grateful to Musco for not only providing their expertise and equipment to more evenly and thoroughly light the monument, but also for doing so in a far more efficient manner than the previous system.”

On the left, what the Washington Monument looked like in the older lighting. On the right, what the Washington Monument will look like under the new lighting. (Courtesy National Park Service)

The new lights also use less energy.

“Our team is pleased to work with the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to light this historic monument,” said Joe Crookham, president of Musco Lighting. “We hope this will create a more enjoyable and memorable viewing experience for many years to come, while also saving energy and being responsible to the environment and night sky.”

The Washington Monument reopened Thursday after three years of renovation work. It has a repaired elevator and a new security screening center. First lady Melania Trump participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate.

The popular D.C. attraction had been closed to visitors since August 2016, when it was shut down by elevator problems.

Tickets for tours through Oct. 18 are available at the Washington Monument lodge on 15th Street. Tickets for tours on Oct. 19 and after can be booked online starting Oct. 10 at 10 a.m.

The monument is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The cornerstone of the Washington Monument is laid by Benjamin French, a Masonic grand master, July 4, 1848, using the same trowel used by George Washington when he laid the cornerstone of the capital in 1793. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Construction of the foundation of the Washington Monument in August 1879. (Getty Images/National Archives)
The public inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes takes place in front of the U.S. Capitol on the East Portico in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 1877. The unfinished Washington Monument can be seen in far background. The Smithsonian Mall is on the left and Pennsylvania Avenue runs off to the upper right. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
<p>A trio of images of the early days of the Washington Monument. The National Park Service said it was built in two phases: &#8220;one private (1848-1854) and one public (1876-1884).&#8221;</p>
This is the scene at the dedication of the Washington Monument, Feb. 21, 1885. The 555-foot shaft was then the highest structure in the world. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
<p>There are many commemorative stones inside the Washington Monument. This one is D.C.&#8217;s.</p>
The commemorative stone for D.C. (Courtesy National Park Service)
<p>Rhode Island&#8217;s stone is pretty elaborate.</p>
Rhode Island’s commemorative stone in the Washington Monument. (Courtesy National Park Service)
<p>This is hardly the first time the Washington Monument has been closed for repairs. The earthquake in 2011 did a number on the obelisk.</p>
Damage to the Washington Monument from the 2011 earthquake. (Courtesy National Park Service)
A missing corner of a stone is seen in the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)
In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a full moon, or harvest moon, rises over government landmarks Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol building and the under-repair Washington Monument on Sept. 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images/Bill Ingalls/NASA)
<p>You&#8217;d be forgiven for thinking this photo was taken after the earthquake, but it&#8217;s from a 1999 restoration.</p>
The moon rises behind the Washington Monument as the scaffolding around it is illuminated after a lighting ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the monument to the public Tuesday, March 2, 1999 in Washington. The lighting of the monument marks the completion of the scaffolding that was erected as part of a $6.5 million restoration project. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/GREG GIBSON)
<p>The Bonus Army was a group of World War I veterans hit hard by the Great Depression who needed to cash in their service certificates, similar to savings bonds, that couldn&#8217;t be cashed until 1945. They were driven out by the U.S. Army, led in this &#8220;mission&#8221; by Douglas MacArthur.</p>
Almost in the shadow of the towering Washington Monument, bonus veterans’ camp is burned down in Washington, D.C., July 28, 1932, after the veterans evacuated before the threats of government troops. Some of the men fired their own huts, although the troops set fire to many. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Rider Joy Cummings examines a Japanese cherry tree that was cut down with the words “To hell with those Japanese,” carved into it, Dec. 10, 1941. Irving C. Root, Parks Commissioner, termed it vandalism. The Washington Monument is in the background. (AP)
<p>Many pictures have been taken from the top of the Washington Monument, too. This one, taken in 1944, shows how many &#8220;tempos&#8221; — temporary government buildings — were on the National Mall during World War II.</p>
Temporary buildings, housing various bureaus of the U.S. Navy Department, now nearly surround the reflecting pool on the National Mall. The view, Sept. 12, 1944 by the Navy, is looking west from the top of the Washington Monument. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
<p>Putting together the Marine Corps War Memorial was no small job.</p>
It’s clumsy, tough, exacting work, but day by day, the figures edge closer in place as the great Iwo Jima flag raising statue is erected in bronze on the Virginia side of the Potomac, in view of the Capitol and the Washington Monument, Sept. 14, 1954, Washington, D.C. Felix De Weldon, the sculptor, right in a dark suit, supervises the work. Beside the base is a large picture of the statue as it will be modeled after the famed photo of World War II. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/William J. Smith)
Several thousand sit and stand near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington as Marian Anderson, famous contralto, sings from the steps of the memorial, April 20, 1952. In the background are the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. The recital was a memorial service for the late Harold L. Ickes, former Secretary of the Interior, who 13 years ago arranged for Anderson to sing from the same location. Anderson’s accompanist is Franz Rupp, lower left, at piano. (AP/Henry Griffin)
Crowds are shown in front of the Washington Monument during the March on Washington for civil rights, Aug. 28, 1963. (AP)
This aerial view shows the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom as thousands of demonstrators make their way from Constitution Avenue, right, to the Washington Monument, obelisk at left, to the Lincoln Memorial, top, in front of the reflecting pool during the March on Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. (AP)
The top of the Washington Monument and part of a U.S. flag are reflected in the sunglasses of Austin Clinton Brown, 9, of Gainesville, Georgia, as he poses at the Capitol, where he joins others in the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. (AP)
This is a general view, made before midnight, showing hundreds of unpainted A-frame plywood homes erected near the Lincoln Memorial to house the Poor People’s Campaign demonstrators in Washington, May 13, 1968. Additional structures are in process of erection. In background is the Washington Monument and the tip of the Capitol dome. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Charles Harrity)
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. (AP)
A 76 mm field artillery gun thunders a salute to the late President John F. Kennedy at Fort Myer, Va., at dawn, Nov. 23, 1963. The Washington Monument is silhouetted against the morning sky and the lights of the city. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Harvey Georges)
<p>Political statements of all kinds have been made around the monument, including from civil rights leaders, American Nazi Party members, segregationists, anti-abortion activists, pro-abortion activists, people against World Bank and IMF policies, and so much more.</p>
George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, puffs on a corncob pipe as he poses at the Washington Monument, Aug. 28, 1963, Rockwell and about 40 of his followers showed up without customary uniforms in the monument grounds, center of the March on Washington activities. Police denied a parade permit for Rockwell. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Folk singer Joan Baez entertains a large crowd at the Washington Monument in D.C. on Aug. 14, 1967. The Daughters of the American Revolution denied the singer use of Constitution Hall and also suggested she be denied use of the monument grounds. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Moratorium Day demonstrations on Oct. 15, 1969 at the Washington Monument and at the White House in Washington. (AP)
This is a general view of musicians and the huge crowd that turned out in Washington, July 4, 1970 as the Rev. Billy Graham speaks from the Lincoln Memorial. Graham was the featured speaker in opening event on the religious and patriotic program on Honor America Day. In the background is the National Mall and the Washington Monument. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Georgia Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox responds to a crowd at the Washington Monument, May 20, 1972 when he spoke to the rally that covered everything from antibusing to praying for the recovery of Alabama Gov. George Wallace to protesting President Richard Nixon’s trip to Moscow. The gathering was organized by the Rev. Carl McIntire. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jim Palmer)
A large crowd now estimated at 250,000 people mass in front of the U.S. Capitol with the Washington Monument in the background to take part in the Solidarity Day march to protest President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, Sept. 19, 1981 in Washington. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Dennis Cook)
The Hands Across America line snakes around the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial during the fundraiser Sunday, May 25, 1986. Millions of volunteers participated in the line across the nation to raise funds for the hungry and homeless. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Charles Pereira)
With the Washington Monument in the background, March for Life supporters gather on the Ellipse on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 1997 before marching to the Supreme Court to mark the 24th anniversary of the court’s decision that legalized abortion. (Associated Press/RUTH FREMSON)
A demonstrator holds a “Fear Bush” sign during a rally against World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002 at the Washington Monument in Washington. Chanting protesters used puppets, homemade signs and music to drive home their message against trade and economic policies they say hurt the poor and put unmanageable burdens on certain countries. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/EVAN VUCCI)
In this Monday, Oct. 16, 1995 file photo, with the Washington Monument in the background, participants in the Million Man March gather on Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington. (AP/Mark Wilson)
<p>Periodic AIDS quilts have made for moving visuals.</p>
With the Washington Monument in the background, volunteers and others walk on the 21,000 panel Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 10, 1992. (AP/SHAYNA BRENNAN)
More than 1,100 flag-draped symbolic coffins line the reflecting pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 in Washington. The tribute is in honor of the American servicemen and women who have been killed in Iraq to date. In the background is the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building. (AP/EVAN VUCCI)
<p>It used to be much easier to get close to the Washington Monument — maybe too close.</p>
Police and spectators view an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that crashed into the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, 1985. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Ron Edmonds)
<p>From snow to the cherry blossoms, the monument has long served as a distinctive backdrop for D.C. weather pictures.</p>
With the Washington Monument in the background, a snowed-in car sits in the falling snow, Monday Jan. 8, 1996 in Washington. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/CHARLES TASNADI)
Cherry blossoms can be seen in full bloom on the Tidal Basin with the Washington Monument in the background in Washington, Thursday, April 8, 1999. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/SUSAN WALSH)
<p>It&#8217;s a go-to backdrop for government shutdowns, too.</p>
In this Jan. 4, 1996, file photo, the sun gleams down on the still-closed Washington Monument as the federal budget impasse continued in Washington. Brawling and bargaining by turns, President Bill Clinton and Republican Congressional leaders struggled to make progress toward a balanced budget, while blaming each other for a partial government shutdown that inconvenienced many. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/DENNIS COOK)
<p>At the right angle, the monument is reflected in the Vietnam War Memorial. This can lead to some nice shots.</p>
An unidentified volunteer trims the grass around the Vietnam Memorial in Washington on Saturday, Aug. 5, 1983. A group of about a dozen volunteers washed and spruced up the memorial. The Washington Monument is reflected in the memorial at the bottom of the photo. (AP/Ira Schwarz)
<p>It&#8217;s an iconic part of any Fourth of July celebration in D.C.</p>
Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
<p>The monument is also an important part of presidential inaugurations, including George W. Bush …</p>
Fireworks explode over the Washington Monument, left, and the White House, lower left, during inaugural opening celebrations, Jan. 18, 2000, in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images/David McNew)
<p>… Barack Obama …</p>
This Jan. 20, 2009 file photo shows the crowd on the National Mall looking from the Capitol toward the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, listening to the inaugural address of President Barack Obama. (AP/Susan Walsh)
<p>… and Donald Trump.</p>
People stand on the National Mall to listen to the 58th presidential inauguration for President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
<p>A massive protest led by women marked the day after Trump&#8217;s inauguration, as well as the first anniversary.</p>
Participants in the Women’s March gather near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. On the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, people participating in rallies and marches in the U.S. and around the world Saturday denounced his views on immigration, abortion, LGBT rights, women’s rights and more. (AP/Cliff Owen)
(1/43)
<p>A trio of images of the early days of the Washington Monument. The National Park Service said it was built in two phases: &#8220;one private (1848-1854) and one public (1876-1884).&#8221;</p>
<p>There are many commemorative stones inside the Washington Monument. This one is D.C.&#8217;s.</p>
<p>Rhode Island&#8217;s stone is pretty elaborate.</p>
<p>This is hardly the first time the Washington Monument has been closed for repairs. The earthquake in 2011 did a number on the obelisk.</p>
<p>You&#8217;d be forgiven for thinking this photo was taken after the earthquake, but it&#8217;s from a 1999 restoration.</p>
<p>The Bonus Army was a group of World War I veterans hit hard by the Great Depression who needed to cash in their service certificates, similar to savings bonds, that couldn&#8217;t be cashed until 1945. They were driven out by the U.S. Army, led in this &#8220;mission&#8221; by Douglas MacArthur.</p>
<p>Many pictures have been taken from the top of the Washington Monument, too. This one, taken in 1944, shows how many &#8220;tempos&#8221; — temporary government buildings — were on the National Mall during World War II.</p>
<p>Putting together the Marine Corps War Memorial was no small job.</p>
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
<p>Political statements of all kinds have been made around the monument, including from civil rights leaders, American Nazi Party members, segregationists, anti-abortion activists, pro-abortion activists, people against World Bank and IMF policies, and so much more.</p>
<p>Periodic AIDS quilts have made for moving visuals.</p>
<p>It used to be much easier to get close to the Washington Monument — maybe too close.</p>
<p>From snow to the cherry blossoms, the monument has long served as a distinctive backdrop for D.C. weather pictures.</p>
<p>It&#8217;s a go-to backdrop for government shutdowns, too.</p>
<p>At the right angle, the monument is reflected in the Vietnam War Memorial. This can lead to some nice shots.</p>
<p>It&#8217;s an iconic part of any Fourth of July celebration in D.C.</p>
<p>The monument is also an important part of presidential inaugurations, including George W. Bush …</p>
<p>… Barack Obama …</p>
<p>… and Donald Trump.</p>
<p>A massive protest led by women marked the day after Trump&#8217;s inauguration, as well as the first anniversary.</p>

WTOP’s Valerie Bonk and John Domen contributed to this report. The Associated Press also  contributed to this report. 

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