Perhaps it's because I'm a Washington, D.C.-area native, and my visiting friends and relatives tend to put up a stubborn fight, but for as long as I've lived in Montana I've had to repeatedly defend the fact that the Anaconda Copper Mine's smelter stack is the world's largest free-standing masonry structure. It's not the Washington Monument, as my mother and father always insisted. It's not something outside of Houston called the San Jacinto Monument. It's "The Stack," and now we have some verification.
Washington Post columnist John Kelly addressed this pressing issue in a recent piece. A reader called out Kelly and his newspaper for repeatedly giving the Washington Monument credit as the world's largest free-standing masonry structure, and he looked into the complaint.
The Washington Monument is 555 feet 5.9 inches tall. The Anaconda stack is 585 feet 1.5 inches tall. However, that includes a 30-foot-tall concrete base. If you subtract the base, the Anaconda tower is 555 feet 1.5 inches high.
Aha, you say. The Washington Monument is still 4.4 inches taller than the Anaconda smokestack. But Carrie [the letter writer] points out that the top 8.8 inches of the monument is an aluminum pyramid. Subtract that, and the smokestack is taller. The beautiful homage to the Father of Our Country must cede its record to a big pollution stick.
You know this big pollution stick. It's the structure visible from I-90. It's also home to a state park that you can't actually visit because it's so polluted.
Anyway, Kelly goes on to wriggle away from Anaconda's glory and find some way to keep the Washington Monument in contention for ... something. Carol Johnson of the National Park Service went so far as to tell Kelly: "Theirs is the tallest free-standing masonry structure. Ours is the tallest free-standing stone structure.”
Oh, come on. Now you're just being silly.