Thanks to Lance Humphries with the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy for sharing today’s update on Baltimore’s Washington Monument.
On May 2, 1814 the Board of Managers of the Washington Monument informed architect Robert Mills that his design for the city’s planned memorial to George Washington had been selected. As the monument was the first one in the country to honor America’s first president, the board was particularly pleased that this honor could go to an American architect, a realization that the new nation was becoming cultural independent from the “Old World,” as they had declared they were politically in 1776.
Robert Gilmor and Isaac McKim were tasked by the Board of Managers to send Mills the official letter sharing the news:
Baltimore 2d May 1814
At a meeting of the Managers of the Washington Monument thisday,agreeably to notice, to award the premium for the best design of a monument, the one furnished by you received the approbation of the board, & we as members of the corresponding committee are directed to communicate this information, & that your [draft] on Mr. Eli Simkins, their Secretary for five hundreds dollars (being the amount of the premium) will be paid at sight.
Agreeably to the terms of the public notice, should you have committed to you the execution of your plan, the amount of the premium will be deducted from your Commission or contract, as the adoption of your design is presumed to be a sufficient compensation for what you have already done.
Your mo. ob. s
The design was not quite final, however, as Mills’ complex design (with many levels and tiers of inscriptions documenting the history of Washington’s life) posed some initial concerns. The height of the column worried those who lived on its intended location (at today’s Monument Square) that it might be “overturned by some shock, owing to its great elevation.” Others feared that the monument might be too expensive. These concerns continued to shape the design and location before the city laid the cornerstone to the Washington Monument on July 4, 1815.
Source: Robert Gilmor, Jr., Board of Managers of the Washington Monument, to Robert Mills, May 2, 1814, Richard X. Evans Collection, Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library, Washington.