It was on Independence Day 1827 that the community of Boonsboro, Maryland decided the best way to mark the holiday was to try to build a stone monument to George Washington in a single day.

It was a Washington Monument before the Washington Monument!

Not that there wasn’t already an effort to honor the first president in Washington DC in the 1820s.

In fact, Congress had passed a resolution just days after Washington’s passing in 1799 calling for a public monument in the capital city.

But it ended up taking the better part of a century, thanks to challenges involving fundraising, construction, civil war and lots more.

You cannot accuse the residents of Boonsboro of taking longer than needed.

On July 3, 1827, they laid a foundation on South Mountain, and the following day, they put up half of a tower, using stone from the site.

They stopped in late afternoon to hold a dedication ceremony, which included a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

And they came back in September to finish the job.

The monument got a pretty good review in a local newspaper:

“As it was raised in much haste, we cannot boast the regular accuracy of perfect beauty, yet it possesses both solidity and durability, two important qualities—It has such strength as I think will preserve it for ages.”

But much like the better-known Washington Monument, this one had its troubles.

Several times it fell into disrepair, partly due to time and the elements, partly due to vandalism, and at least once due to dynamite (!)

And yet it was still a valuable site, one that Union troops used to signal troops using flag-based codes during the Civil War battle of Antietam.

Locals did try to restore the tower from time to time, but it wasn’t until the Great Depression that a team from the federal Civilian Conservation Corps conducted a full overhaul.

That took a year and a half and concluded with another dedication ceremony on Independence Day 1936.

The president of the University of Maryland, H.C. Byrd, told the crowd that by bringing the old Washington Monument back to life, “we are not so much dedicating a pile of cold stones as we are dedicating ourselves to the perpetuation of certain ideas of government and the relationship of government to its people.”

If you’re looking for a salty way to enjoy this holiday, you could check out the Berrien Springs Pickle Festival in Michigan.

The day starts with a pancake breakfast and ends with fireworks – in between, there’s a parade, a relish eating contest, big wheel races and a pickle fling.

The Little-Known Story of the First Washington Monument (Smithsonian)

After A More Than 16-Year Hiatus, This Small Town Now Hosts The Longest-Running Pickle Festival In Michigan (Only In Your State)

Photo by F Delventhal via Flickr/Creative Commons