Up Close: Bunker Hill Monument
Don Haska and Maureen Gannon were married at the top of the monument on May 20, 1995. The bride climbed all 294 steps in her wedding gown.
The Bunker Hill Monument has appeared in several movies. The most recent was The Town, Ben Affleck’s 2010 tale of bank robbers in Charlestown.
The cornerstone for the Bunker Hill Monument was laid in a grand ceremony on June 17, 1825, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. (The monument is actually on Breed’s Hill, site of most of the fighting.) Le Marquis de Lafayette and 190 veterans of the battle attended; Daniel Webster delivered the address. When the monument was dedicated on June 17, 1843, 10 veterans were still alive and present, 68 years after the battle.
The Bunker Hill Monument is 221 feet 5 inches high. With no elevator, it’s 294 steps to the top. Boston firemen climb the monument to stay in shape.
Ethan Beeler has been the monument’s supervising ranger since 1993. “For the first five years,” he says, “I climbed it every day.”
The Bunker Hill Monument was transferred from the state to the National Park Service in 1976. The monument is currently being restored and will reopen for climbing this summer. The grounds and museum remain open; there’s no admission fee.
Money woes halted construction several times. When the all-male committee was ready to give up, the women of New England, led by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, held an 8-day craft fair in September 1840 and raised $30,000–nearly a fifth of the total construction cost.
Fifty plans were submitted to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. Harvard student Horatio Greenough’s design for an obelisk was modified by Loammi Baldwin Jr., a civil engineer, and became the 221-foot-high monument. Construction was supervised by architect Solomon Willard.
The monument sits on a buried foundation, 12 feet deep and 50 feet square. There are 78 courses of stone, each 2 feet 8 inches high. Each cut stone weighs nearly 6 tons.