Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial Improvements – Washington DC


The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial, located in Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island, is a statue honoring sailors of the United States Navy and the United States Merchant Marine who died at sea during World War I. It was designed in 1922 by Harvey Wiley Corbett and sculpted by Ernesto Begni del Piatta.

The monument was not erected until 1934, when it was installed with New Deal support as part of a larger Capital Parks improvement program. It is likely that the first installation was done with the help of Civil Works Administration (CWA) relief labor.

Nevertheless, lack of funds meant that the statue was put atop a cheap concrete plinth.  “In May 1934, the commission overseeing the memorial’s construction asked the Works Progress Administration for a $100,000 grant to complete the granite steps. But no funds were forthcoming. Finally, … the Works Progress Administration allocated $39,000 to finish memorial in 1939. This included adding the wavy green granite steps, creating a concrete plaza around the memorial, installing two flagstone walks to lead to the memorial, and landscaping the area.” (wikipedia)

A National Archives index to WPA projects further describes WPA work at the memorial circa 1940: “Complete Navy-Marine Memorial on Columbia Island. Work includes constructing walks, steps, platforms, pavement trails, and parking area; clearing; filling; grading; planting topsoil; planting trees and shrubs; demolishing foundation, and performing incidental and appurtenant work.”

The WPA work for the memorial was completed in 1941.



Source notes

National Archives, Record Group 69, Records of the Work Projects Administration, “Newspaper clippings file, 1935-1942.”

“New Deal Projects Aid Many Park Developments in Capital,” Washington Daily News, July 23, 1936.

National Archives, Record Group 69, “Microfilmed Index to WPA Projects.”

Federal Writer’s Project, The WPA Guide to Washington, D.C. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983 paperback edition, p. 448. 

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - on June 5, 2013.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Washington, D.C. 20037

Coordinates: 38.8761, -77.0472

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