The Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 as a tribute to George Washington's military leadership from 1775-1783 during the American Revolution. Its construction took place in two major phases, 1848-56, and 1876-84--a lack of funds, political turmoil, and uncertainty about the survival of the American Union caused the intermittent hiatus. Plans for a national monument began as early as 1783 when Congress proposed that an equestrian statue of George Washington be erected.
Although the Monument was authorized by Congress, little action was taken, even after Major Peter Charles L'Enfant selected its site in his 1791 Federal City plan. Washington's 1799 death rekindled public aspiration for an appropriate tribute to him, and John Marshall proposed that a special sepulcher be erected for the General within the Capitol itself. Lack of funds postponed construction, but Marshall persevered, and in 1833, he, James Madison, and others formed the Washington National Monument Society.
By 1836, the society advertised for competitive architectural designs. The winning architect was Robert Mills, whose design called for a neoclassical plan which provided for a nearly-flat-topped obelisk surrounded by a circular colonnade on which would stand a statue of Washington in a chariot. Inside the colonnade, statues of thirty prominent Revolutionary War heroes would be displayed.