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The top 3 sandstone monuments in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is many things – the nation's capital, the seat of our democracy and the site of many a historic moment. But did you also know that it is home to some of the country's most breathtaking sandstone structures. 

That's right – the capital is filled with numerous sandstone structures, many of them iconic, made from locally sourced materials. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), at the time that the earliest government buildings were constructed, there wasn't the technology to easily move large amounts of heavy objects great distances –  which meant American stones were relied on.

If you've ever visited the city before, you probably didn't realize it, but you were looking at bonafide American sandstone: Aquia Creek sandstone, or "freestone". This type of stone, personally selected by George Washington himself, is a "fine-grain sandstone cemented with large chunks of clay quarried in Stafford County, Virginia," according to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It was a popular building material in the capital from 1790 to 1840, before falling out of favour for marble. 

So what are some of the most notable structures this uniquely American material helped to build?

1. The Capitol Gatehouse

The Capitol Gatehouse, created in the neoclassical style like much of the buildings in the nation's capital, was meant to evoke the democratic republics of Greece and Rome. One of the gatehouses can be found at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, while another is located on 17th Street NW. 

It was one of the last major uses of the stone, in around 1827 – by this time, without the right surface protection, the stone had suffered damage and become less popular.

2. The US Capitol

The majestic Capitol building itself had a helping hand from some Aquia creek sandstone. In fact, the USGS says the older parts of the Capitol are the best places to see the sandstone used indoors, as it was utilized for the walls and columns of the rooms adjoining the rotunda in the spiral staircase, as well as various columns in the Senate. 

3. The White House

The very building where the President resides and signs bills into law stands in no small part thanks to sandstone. It was painted white to give it the building the iconic look we know now, but suffered significant damage when the White House was burnt in the War of 1812, such as pitting and cracking. 

Of course, Aquia Creek sandstone lost its favour for other reasons, too, notably sandstone's vulnerability to weathering. Because it is such a porous and soft stone, sandstone protection is of the utmost importance if exposing it to the elements – something they weren't aware of 200 years ago. 

These days, however, your sandstone needn't fall into disrepair. Sealing it with an impregnating sealer like DRY-TREAT 40SK™ will help make it last in all kinds of conditions.

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