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Urban planner Léon Krier's master plan replaced the green swath of the National Mall with a Venetian-like canal flanked by pyramids and other examples of ancient architecture. (Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY)

The Monuments That Were Never Built

In a new exhibit at the National Building Museum, imagine Washington D.C. as it could have been

Proposed Memorial Bridge in honor of Gen. U.S. Grant by Smithmeyer and Pelz, 1887

Memorial Bridge
(Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-31532)
In 1887, just three years after a similar design by another architect was accepted for London’s Tower Bridge, the architectural firm Smithmeyer and Pelz, in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers, proposed a Memorial Bridge honoring Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The bridge, connecting Washington to Arlington, Virginia, was medieval-looking, with two, tall stone towers near its center and pairs of round turrets at other points along it. Talk of actually building the bridge, though, soon fizzled out. Instead, 45 years later, a low-rise Memorial Bridge was built in approximately the same location, extending from the backside of the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington Cemetery. Towerless, it does not obstruct any views.

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