7 of the Largest Constructed Monuments in the United States
Some of which still hold records as much as a century after completion.
A monument may not be useful in a practical sense, but each one has a unique purpose in memorializing a certain part of our shared history. The United States has peppered man-made monuments around the nation, and in the process of building them all, rediscovered a universal truth: Bigger is better. Here are seven of the most notable and most noticeable man-made monuments in the U.S. The also happen to be some of the largest, go figure.
When it comes to constructed monuments, none in the U.S. come larger than the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Finished in 1965 it's known as the "Gateway to the West" as part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial that honors St. Louis as a launching point for American expansion. The structure stands 630 feet high and 630 feet wide at its base. Visitors can experience the entirety of the arch with a tram ride to the top.
Created with a design that unmistakably reflects ancient Greek structures, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. has 36 columns, each representing a state at the time of Lincoln’s death. At 190 feet long, 119 feet wide and about 100 feet tall, the memorial’s main feature is obviously the 19-foot-tall, 175-ton statue of President Lincoln. Lincoln has since been joined on the National Mall by other historical giants since his memorial opened in 1922—like the 30-foot likeness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also stands DC—but the iconic sitting Lincoln, design of the building, and full text of the Gettysburg Address etched into the walls sets this monument apart.
A gift from France to the U.S. in 1886, this 305-foot-tall statue not only serves as a physical monument to American freedom, but also a powerful symbol of a country welcoming immigrants to its shores via Liberty Island. The robed female figure we know as Lady Liberty was based on the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas and her 225-ton form is clad in copper, giving it its iconic green color with a bit of gold atop the torch.
Mount Rushmore wasn't built so much as it was formed, with workers carving the 60-foot-tall heads of former U.S. presidents into the granite cliffs of South Dakota’s Black Hills. A team of about 400 took roughly 14 years to complete the task with no loss of life, chiseling in George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. During the process, workers hung from cables and used dynamite to clear away 450,000 tons of rock before carving the monuments fine details by less explosive, more traditional methods.
Arguably the most iconic monument on the West Coast, the 605-foot-tall futuristic Space Needle in downtown Seattle built to commemorate the 1962 World’s Fair. The 9,550-ton structure stretches 138 feet wide and sits in the Emerald City’s Seattle Center as a defining symbol of the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can dine at the revolving restaurant atop the structure or simply head up elevators for a 360-degree view.
Built in 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial serves as a stark reminder of the 1,777 sailors and Marines killed on its namesake during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 184-foot-long memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the fallen. The structure was designed with two peaks on either end and a depression in the middle, meant to signify the American mindset of pride before the attack, the tragedy and then the return of American power.
The world’s tallest structure when completed in 1884—decades after construction began in 1848—the monument to honor President George Washington includes two different sources of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. The obelisk stretches roughly 555 feet in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It may have lost its record as world's tallest to considerable higher buildings but the Washington Monument is still the world’s tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk.