Washington Monument measures slightly shorter on Presidents Day

Monument is about 10 inches smaller because of new starting point, technology

Patriots stood tall for America on Monday in celebration of George Washington’s birthday. But the monument that bears his name measured about 10 inches smaller than had been thought.

The latest measurements of the Washington Monument were announced on Monday by U.S. officials, just in time for the holiday commemorating the birth of Washington, the father of his country. The celebration has been broadened to include Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday on Feb. 12 used to be a separate holiday in many parts of the country.

Now the day, the third Monday in February, has come to be known as Presidents Day, in honor of both leaders and the institution of the presidency.

It is not just the holiday that has been redefined; the monument itself has been re-measured and found to be shorter, mainly because the original measuring points have changed and, in part, because of the greater accuracy of modern devices.

“The building has absolutely not shrunk,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a new measurement with new techniques and a new starting point.”

The Washington Monument juts into the skies of Washington, D.C., and was originally measured by Lt. Col. Thomas Casey in 1884. It was found then to be 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches.

The latest measurement, however, found the marble obelisk to be 554 feet, 7 and 11/32 inches as measured from the main entrance to the top.

The original measurement had been confirmed by other measurements, including one in 1999. But modern international standards from the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the keepers of the official guidelines for measuring buildings, in 2014 called for a different base point than what once was used.

The 19th century measurement was commemorated by brass markers still in the ground. Those four markers are about 9 inches lower than the main entrance, accounting for almost all of the change, said Ben Sherman, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Geodetic Survey, which performed the new measurement.

“The four marks we believe Casey and the Army Corp of Engineers used were about 9 inches lower,” Sherman said. “There has been some better measurement that comes from new technology, but most of the change is from your start.”

The latest measurement was done while the monument was still recovering from a 2011 earthquake. Earlier survey results showed the monument did not sink any further into the ground as a result of the 5.8-magnitude quake.

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