Historic Photos of Washington’s Great Monuments, Memorials and Buildings Under Construction

Take a step back in time to see the building of some of D.C.’s most famous icons

View from the south grounds of the White House, during a renovation that occurred during the Truman Administration. Oonly the outside walls of the Executive Mansion remained unchanged. At right, the men in charge of the $5,000,000 reconstruction project review the progress. © Bettmann/CORBIS
The Lincoln Memorial under construction, 1920. Daniel Chester French worked with the Piccirilli Brothers to bring his vision of the statue to fruition. National Archives, Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital
The third casting consisting of three figures is brought into position to be bolted to the other three members of the six men comprising the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in 1954. Cpl. Donald M. Sutton, Defense Dept. Photo (Marine Corps) A400849
The 19-foot-6-inch, 15,000 pound Statue of Freedom, cost $780,000 to restore and repair. It was returned to its pedestal atop the Capitol Dome in September of 1993. Jack E. Boucher, 1993, Library of Congress
The Arlington Memorial Bridge was under construction from 1926 to 1932. By Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress
On May 9, 1993, the Statue of Freedom was airlifted from the top of the Capitol to be fully restored. It was replaced a few months later in September to coincide with the bicentennial of the laying of the Capitol’s first cornerstone. Jack E. Boucher, 1993, Library of Congress
Aerial view of the Washington Monument with scaffolding, January 1935. Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress
Aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial under construction. Harris & Ewing, 1919, Library of Congress
The Jefferson Memorial under construction around 1940. Work began in 1938 and it was dedicated on Jefferson's 200th birthday, April 13, 1943. By Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress
In 1947, the permanent statue is brought in through the columns that surround the Jefferson Memorial. National Park Service
A temporary plaster statue was created and installed during WWII when bronze was not readily available. In April, 1947, the temporary statue is disassembled in the Jefferson Memorial prior to the permanent bronze statue being installed. National Park Service
By 1850, the U.S. Capitol was too small to house the increasing number of senators and representatives. It underwent expansion and the legislative chambers were completed before the Civil War. In 1863, the Statue of Freedom was placed on top of the finished Capitol dome. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
Construction of the Lincoln Memorial took place between 1914 and 1922. © CORBIS
Construction of the new Supreme Court Building on July 14, 1933. © Bettmann/CORBIS
While building the Library of Congress, workers put the keystone of its rotunda's southwest clerestory arch in place on June 28, 1892. © CORBIS
Construction of the Washington Monument resumed in 1876 when Congress passed a resolution to take over funding its construction. The private Washington National Monument Society, previously in charge of funding, went bankrupt in 1854. The Monument was completed on December 6, 1884, and dedicated in 1885. © CORBIS
Library of Congress under construction, ca. 1896. © CORBIS
Buttresses support the foundation of the Washington Monument during construction on January 20, 1880. © CORBIS
The basement and first floor of the Library of Congress under construction on August 8, 1891. Congress authorized the Library to build a separate building in 1886, and it opened to the public in 1897. (It had previously occupied space within the Capitol.) © CORBIS
The U. S. Capitol under construction. © CORBIS
Man posing with construction workers at the top of the Washington Monument. The first restoration of the Monument began in 1934 as a Depression-era public works project. © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis
In this view of White House reconstruction taken on July 12, 1950, girders and temporary steel braces criss-cross what was once several rooms in the mansion. While the Executive Mansion was undergoing renovation from 1948 to 1952, the first family lived just across Pennsylvania Avenue in Blair House. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Walking on the National Mall, around the Tidal Basin or along historic Pennsylvania Avenue, it can be difficult to imaging that Washington, D.C. was little more than wilderness and plantations when George Washington selected it to be the home of our nation’s capital in 1791. Washington chose Pierre L’Enfant to design the capital city and L'Enfant quickly selected the site for the legislature to meet at the raised area where the U.S. Capital sits today, on the east end of the National Mall. He called the land, "a pedestal waiting for a monument." The building held the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, until the latter two moved to buildings of their own in the 19th century.

Grand parks and green spaces were all part of L’Enfant’s detailed plan, but the National Mall didn't take its current form until the turn of the 20th century with the creation of the McMillan Commission. The group's members helped pass legislation extending the National Mall west and south of the Washington Monument, providing land for the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and the vast green spaces visitors enjoy today. Over time, the Federal City has become home to the historic buildings, inspirational monuments and somber memorials.

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