FDR Memorial -Washington DC
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial in Washington DC was completed in 1997 at cost of $48 million dollars, funded largely by the federal government. It is located in West Potomac Park, along the tidal basin between the Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson memorials. The memorial is managed by the National Park Service.
The FDR Memorial is divided into four sections, with each section representing one of FDR’s four terms in the White House. The Cultural Landscape Foundation describes it:
“The memorial’s rooms and water features, built primarily of red South Dakota granite, use stone to express the fracture and upheaval of the times. Water, in the form of cascades, waterfalls, and pools, is a metaphorical component of the palette, with the volume and complexity escalating as the narrative progresses. The memorial also incorporates ten bronze sculptures and 21 carved inscriptions, quotations from FDR’s speeches and radio talks.”
One of the inscriptions at the FDR Memorial – “Among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races” – came from a speech Roosevelt gave at the historically black Howard University in Washington DC, for the dedication of a new chemistry building constructed with funds from the Public Works Administration (PWA). The chemistry building was one of many New Deal projects for black schools and colleges.
The FDR Memorial was designed by Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) and includes statues by several different artists. Upon Halprin’s death, the New York Times reported: “The Roosevelt memorial was Mr. Halprin’s favorite project, his wife said. Partly because he had loving memories of Roosevelt, and partly because of the sheer difficulty of the task.”
The FDR memorial is not a New Deal project, as it came over 50 years after FDR’s death. Nevertheless, it honors the man who made the New Deal possible. As one of the monument’s inscriptions says, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.” FDR did not want a memorial, just a simple stone centograph – shown below – which was placed near the National Archives building in central DC.
The FDR Memorial is one of the most visited sites in Washington, DC. It is also threatened by global warming and sea level rise.
“Belated Tribute: Memorial that FDR never sought nears completion,” Associated Press, in The La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin), April 14, 1997, p. A-3.
“Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial,” National Park Service (accessed January 25, 2020).
“Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial,” The Cultural Landscape Foundation (accessed January 25, 2020.
“Address at the Dedication the New Chemistry Building, Howard University, Washington, DC,” American Presidency Project, University of California Santa Barbara (accessed January 25, 2020).
“Lawrence Halprin, Landscape Architect, Dies at 93,” New York Times, October 28, 2009 (accessed January 25, 2020).
“What's the Most Visited Presidential Memorial in America?” Parade, July 31, 2013 (accessed January 25, 2020).
“National Mall Tidal Basin,” National Trust for Historic Preservation (accessed January 25, 2020).
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on February 25, 2020.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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