ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Washington, DC & Its Jefferson Memorial: A Shimmering Presence Over the Tidal Basin

Updated on December 23, 2022
Flag of the United States
Flag of the United States | Source
Flag of the District of Columbia
Flag of the District of Columbia | Source
Cherry Blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC
Cherry Blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC | Source
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt | Source

Franklin D. Roosevelt strengthening Federal perceptions, in John Russell Pope's Neo-Classical structure

It is certainly an impressive sight to behold the smooth, white lines of the domed, Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin, at the southern end of the National Mall, near the Potomac, at Washington, DC. (I was impressed, anyway!) Generations of visitors have come to associate this most photogenic of Washington's structures, managed by the National Park Service, with its striking broader environment of cherry trees, planted around the Tidal Basin. Indeed, the Memorial is a focal point of an annual National Cherry Blossom Festival(1).

The architect responsible for the Jefferson Memorial was John Russell Pope (1874-1937)(2), who died before groundbreaking in 1938. The Memorial's actual construction took place between 1939 and 1943. Particular features include Ionic columns in its imposing portico, and marble steps on a large scale. The materials used in the Memorial are: Vermont marble for the columns, Tennessee marble for the flooring and Georgia granite for the foundation.

The enormous, 5.8 metre bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) within the domed Memorial is by Rudulph Evans (1878-1960). The statue was completed in 1947. On the interior walls are quotations from Jefferson himself as well as from the US Declaration of Independence.

It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), who, in 1934, took the initiative to pursue the possibility of a Memorial commemorating Jefferson. Americans need no lessons in civics from myself, but I can understand why, in difficult times, and when many conflicting forces were challenging the US Government, the Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt saw fit to create a great Federal project in the shape of the Jefferson Memorial, where emphases on support for education, discovery and free commerce are clearly discernible.

FDR took a keen interest in progress in the planning and work on the Memorial and was repeatedly present at ceremonies at the Jefferson Memorial site in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as the structure took shape. A day short of two years before President Roosevelt's untimely passing, he formally inaugurated the Memorial on April 13, 1943.

There was opposition to the Memorial, strange to relate, though this now may seem. Originally the same architect designed a monument in the 1920s to honour Theodore Roosevelt. Congress, however, literally did not buy it. Then with FDR in the White House, and cooperation in Congress, John Russell Pope again got out his drawing board, and put together another Memorial design; except that this time it was supposed to be in honour of Thomas Jefferson. Anyway, objections surfaced; John Russell Pope's second design did not meet with the full approval of a specially designated committee which was to oversee it; so the design was modified, although in fact the committee members were never actually able to agree among themselves as to the best design; but Congress approved the project anyway. Then some people didn't think it was a good idea to dig up some cherry trees located at the proposed site of the Memorial; these cherry trees, a few of many planted around the Tidal Basin, had been a gift from the Japanese government in the early 20th century. (After all, if a few of the cherry trees were dug up to make room for the Jefferson Memorial, what might the Japanese government think? However, after the raid on Pearl Harbor and the ensuing World War Two commitment of American forces against Japan, culminating in the fateful nuclear flattening of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, gardening issues about the location of Japanese cherry trees seemed to revert strictly to the annals of horticultural history.)

Others have taken issue with the quotations from Jefferson, implying that what Jefferson would have meant about freedom, progress and society would not have been quite the same as what the Memorial's editor of his quotations might have agreed with at the time of FDR's New Deal. Stated differently, the Jefferson quotations were supposedly a kind of New Deal plot to make what Jefferson and others thought was self-evident look as if reasons for the New Deal were self-evident. One can thus imagine some people saying, Why spoil a good Monument with such criticism? or, even, why spoil criticism of the New Deal with such a good Monument?

And so it goes.

A great Memorial, anyway, commissioned by a great President.


(1) Prominent in the process of promoting and planting cherry trees by the Tidal Basin was writer and photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1856-1928), who, being from a diplomatic family, had travelled widely in the East, and was also a trustee of the National Geographical Society. She was aided in this endeavour by First Lady Helen Herron Taft (1909-1913).

(2) Other noted buildings for which Architect Pope was responsible include, in Washington, DC: DAR Constitution Hall, the National Archives Building, the National Gallery of Art West Building; in London, England: the Elgin Gallery, British Museum.

Also worth seeing

The huge number of visitor attractions in Washington, DC are too numerous to mention adequately, but a few of these include the Washington Monument, the United States Capitol, the Smithsonian 'Castle', the White House and Lafayette Square, and many others.


How to get there: Wide air connections to Washington, DC are available via Reagan National, Washington Dulles and Baltimore Washington International airports, where car hire is available. Road access to the Memorial is available from the south by the I-395; general parking is available on Ohio Drive, SW. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)