Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial honors the author of the Declaration of Independence, the man who served as the nation’s third president. The neoclassical memorial, with a bronze statue of Jefferson at its center and some of his most important writing etched on its walls, is located on the south side of the Tidal Basin facing the Washington Monument and the White House.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was dedicated on the bicentennial of his birth, April 13, 1943. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt thought that Thomas Jefferson deserved the same recognition afforded to Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Roosevelt persuaded Congress to authorize the memorial in 1934.
You can think of the Jefferson Memorial as another of FDR’s public works projects. Its total cost was just over $3 million. The monument’s designer was American architect John Russell Pope. Pope, who also designed the National Gallery of Art, spent years studying in Greece, Italy, and France.
Proponents of modern architecture criticized Pope’s design for belonging to a previous age that was European rather than American in style. It is true that Pope took inspiration for this commission from the Pantheon in Rome, but Jefferson may have appreciated that Pope also studied Jefferson’s own designs for his home at Monticello and the University of Virginia.
Dedicated during World War II when metal was allocated for the war effort, the memorial’s first statue was cast in plaster. That statue was replaced with a 5-ton bronze version in 1947. American sculptor Rudulph Evans created the 19-foot statue. Thomas Jefferson was a true Renaissance man. In addition to being a writer, politician, and diplomat, he was an inventor, scientist, philosopher, architect, and musician.
Surrounded by trees that were gifts from Japan, the memorial to this gentleman-farmer and horticulturist is part of the picturesque scenery for the National Cherry Blossom Festival that Washington celebrates every spring.
by Katie Calvert