The Washington Monument and US Capitol are mirrored in the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2022 ( AFP / Stefani Reynolds)

US capital building height restrictions not based on Washington Monument

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts claim that no building in the US capital may be taller than the Washington Monument, the obelisk memorializing the country's first president. But while there are restrictions on taller buildings in the city, these were set based on street width, not the monument's height.

"One detail that is seldom mentioned is that in Washington, D.C. there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument," says a January 19, 2022 Facebook post.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on January 21, 2022

More examples of the claim appeared on Facebook here and here.

The Height of Buildings Act of 1910 sets maximum building heights in Washington, DC. The limits are implemented for private property through the city's zoning regulations and by National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) review of development proposals for federal property.

"This federal law imposes maximum heights on buildings within Washington, DC based upon the width of the street, to a maximum height of 130 feet (commercial streets) and 90 feet (residential streets), and 160 feet for parts of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW," the NCPC's website says.

The DC Office of Planning told AFP: "Building height limits in Washington are based on street width (as well as zoning regulations that may further restrict height) and not height relative to any other building."

"The height restrictions allow for towers, domes, spires, penthouses, and other similar architectural features to project above the nominal height limits.  These are typically approved on a case-by-case basis," it added.

The Washington Monument was completed in 1884 and stands at 555 feet, 5 and 1/8 inches tall. However, it is not the tallest structure in the US capital -- the Hughes Memorial Tower is 761 feet tall.