Jefferson & F. D. R. Memorials
Because of their close proximity to each other, Sonshine Education Tours recommends seeing these memorials together.
The West Potomac Park, on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin began as a tidal sand bar. The park arose from the waters of the Potomac river, the work of the United States Army Corps of Engineers dredging of the Potomac in response to frequent flooding of the D.C. area in the late 1800’s. During the “City Beautiful movement” at the turn of the century, that mass of weed overgrown landfill was turned into a national park. A road was built around the perimeter of the park and Japanese cherry trees planted along the roadway. With the park being so close to the White House, it became apparent that it was well suited for a high-profile memorial.
The idea finally took root in 1934 when Presidential Franklin Roosevelt suggested a memorial to Thomas Jefferson. Construction began on December 15, 1938 and the cornerstone was laid by President Roosevelt himself on November 15, 1939. The Jefferson Memorial was officially dedicated on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday (April 13, 1943). Because of material shortages during WWII, the planned bronze statues were swapped out with a plaster one painted to look bronze. It was four more years, after the death of FDR, until the planned bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson was put in place.
Composed of a circular colonnade with a dome, The Jefferson Memorial is largely open to the elements. Under the dome stands the 19 food tall statue of Jefferson looking north toward the White House in the distance. The interior walls are engraved with the writing of Jefferson. Included are excerpts from The Declaration of Independence, a bill for religious freedom, and corresponding letters to George Washington and other friends. When you stand within the Jefferson Memorial and read the inscribed words of this great philosopher of government, it’s hard not to pause and contemplate the blessing of liberty and freedom that “We the People of this great nation” have been given.
Thomas Jefferson was our nation’s first Secretary of State, second vice president and third president. His other notable accomplishments include being the 2nd governor of Virgina, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, inventor, architect, collector of books, farmer, ambassador to France and the founder of the University of Virgina.
The position of the FDR Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial is very poetic. The two memorials are almost a stone’s throw away, but the Jefferson Memorial is in the West Potomac Park while the FDR’s memorial is in the East Potomac Park. These two sections of the Potomac Park are separated by the Tidal Basin. This basin is what protects the capitol from flooding by pooling 250 millions gallons off the Potomac river during high tides. It is the Jefferson Memorial that is build upon the dredge fill that forms the west park creating the basin, which protects Washington. The Jefferson memorial is motivating, even spiritual. It speaks with vision and purpose and resolves to establish good government. The memorial and the statue of Jefferson himself, standing tall, looks across the basin to the White House and the city which West Potomac Park protects. The FDR Memorial on other hand, parked at the opposite side of the Tidal Basin, is somber and at times sad. The Memorial is progressive, unveiling further turmoil of his administration; The crash of the stock market, then Great Depression, then World War II and ultimately Roosevelt’s death.
Jefferson is a standing visionary. FDR is unable to stand and barely is our nation during this time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States. He was elected to an unprecedented 4 terms but died early into his 4th term. Roosevelt attempted to end the Great Depression over the course of his first two terms through a series of projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in which numerous dams were built to control flooding, protect our water supply and generate electricity. Many of his “New Deal” programs such as Social Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission continue to this day. His last two terms were dominated by WW II in which he guided the United States but died prior to victory.
It was FDR who had the Jefferson Memorial built.
Customized Smithsonian field trips can also include:
[catlist id=3 numberposts=-1 template=list-only]