In 1959, 50 flagpoles were installed, representing each state, encircling the perimeter of the monument.
(23rd St. and Constitution Ave., NW; Dedicated: 1922; Architect: Henry Bacon; Sculptor: Daniel Chester French)
One of Washington, D.C.’s most familiar landmarks honors its 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The movement to create a memorial to Lincoln began shortly after Lincoln’s assassination. The Lincoln Monument Association was established by Congress in 1867, but the site for the memorial was not selected until 1901. The public was outraged by the selection of West Potomac Park—marshy land that had originally been under the Potomac River.
Architect Henry Bacon submitted his final plans for the Greek temple design that would soon become one of Washington, D.C.’s most familiar sites in 1913. Ground was broken in 1914. The Lincoln statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts.
French opted to portray Lincoln seated, a symbol of mental and physical strength. French planned to create a ten-foot statue but found his statue dwarfed by the huge memorial and doubled its size.
Above the temple’s 38 columns are the names of the 36 states that were in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death in 1865. Murals sculpted by Jules Guerin adorn the temple’s inner walls. Emancipation is on the south wall and hangs above the inscription of the Gettysburg Address. Unification is on the north wall, above Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1922, by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft. During the dedication ceremony, African-Americans in attendance were made to sit in segregated seating sections. The memorial would later become the backdrop for milestones in the struggle for civil rights, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a concert by black singer Marian Anderson, who was denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
(South end of 15th St., SW on the Tidal Basin; Dedicated: 1943; Architects: John Russell Pope, Otto R. Eggers; Daniel P. Higgins)
With a form reminiscent of the Pantheon, the memorial to the third president took only nine years to complete. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission was created in 1934, and the memorial was dedicated on April 13, 1943.
Architect John Russell Pope incorporated one of Jefferson’s favorite design elements, the rotunda, into the memorial design. While derided by critics who felt the memorial should be more American in style, the classical influence reflects Jefferson’s admiration of Roman politics and architecture.
More controversy surrounded the monument’s placement on the Tidal Basin, which required the removal of many of the beautiful cherry trees that had been planted in 1912. Protesters chained themselves to the trees to prevent their destruction; the government responded by offering the protesters refreshments. As nature called, the chains came off, and the design prevailed.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the memorial using the same silver gavel that had been used to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Pope passed away before the construction began, and the dedication took place on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.