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Jefferson Davis State Historic Site is a memorial to the famous Kentuckian born on this site on June 3, 1808. A 351-foot obelisk constructed on a foundation of solid Kentucky Limestone, marks the site, and an elevator to the top gives visitors a bird's eye view of the countryside. Although Davis is most well-known for his service as President of the Confederacy during the Civil War, he was actually a reluctant secessionist. Davis distinguished himself as a military and political leader not only during the Civil War, but also as a West Point graduate, Mexican War hero, Mississippi congressman and senator, and Secretary of War during the Franklin Pierce administration.

Jefferson Davis State Historic Site

Jefferson Davis State Historic Site

Simon Bolivar Buckne Sr., a Confederate general, first proposed the idea of a monument for Davis during a reunion of the Orphan Brigade of the Confederate Army in 1907. Construction began in 1917 but stopped in 1918 at a height of 175 feet (53 m) due to building material rationing during World War I. Construction resumed in January 1922 and was finished in 1924 at a cost of $200,000. The base was constructed of limestone quarried from the site. The concrete walls are 8.5 feet (2.6 m) thick at the base and taper to 2.5 feet (0.76 m) thick at the top. The monument was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as structure #73000849. The obelisk was closed to the public from 1999 until May 2004 for renovations and construction of a new visitor center. At the top of the monument is an observation room with a window in each of the four walls. Originally, this room could only be reached by climbing stairs which went around the interior of the monument; an elevator, installed in 1929, now takes visitors to and from the observation room.

The monument is the tallest unreinforced concrete structure in the world. No steel was used to reinforce the concrete. As one pour was completed, large chunks of limestone were left projecting up to connect it to the next pour above. It is also the tallest concrete obelisk in the world; all of the taller obelisks are constructed with blocks of stone. It is the third tallest obelisk in the world (behind the San Jacinto Monument and the Washington Monument). (Because its cross section is octagonal and does not have a pyramidal top, the San Jacinto Monument could be considered a columnn instead of an obelisk.)

It is the fifth tallest monument in the United States, behind the Gateway Arch at 630 feet (190 m), the San Jacinto Monument at 567 feet (173 m), the Washington Monument at 555 feet (169 m), and the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial at 352 feet (107 m). The Crazy Horse Memorial, not yet completed, has a planned height of 563 feet (172 m). Elsewhere in the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Khafre's Pyramid, Spring Temple Buddha, and Ushiku Daibutsu are taller monuments.1

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