Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial – Washington DC


Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial was created in the 1930s with the aid of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and National Park Service (NPS).

Theodore Roosevelt Island sits in the middle of the Potomac between Arlington and downtown Washington, just within the District of Columbia. The island covers some 88 acres and is both a forest park and a memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1931, Mason’s Island was bought by the Roosevelt Memorial Association, which presented it to the federal government in 1932 to be developed as a memorial to the former president and ardent conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt. Congress authorized the memorial in 1932 but funding was not appropriated

The Roosevelt Memorial Association, which retained planning authority, hired the famous landscape architecture firm, Olmsted Brothers, to create a plan for a naturalized forest park and memorial.  The plan was developed by Henry Hubbard under the guidance of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  The idea was to create naturalized woodland as a living memorial to Roosevelt, the first conservationist president.

After approval by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Park and Planning Commission in May 1934, work could proceed.  Meanwhile, the National Park Service had taken control of TR island as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which was being developed contemporaneously.

From 1934 to 1937, CCC workers carried out the Olmsted-Hubbard plan.  They drained swampy shoreline areas, cleared away non-native vegetation and planted some 20,000 native hardwood trees and shrubs.  Following that, they built paths and trails to make the woods accessible to the public.  Theodore Roosevelt Island opened to the public in 1936.

The present memorial on the island was finally funded by Congress in 1960 and dedicated in 1967.  It was supposed to go at the southern end of the island, but the building of the highway bridge (also named after Theodore Roosevelt) in the 1950s forced a shift to the northern end.  The placement of that bridge was understandably controversial at the time.

Although Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, no cars are allowed on the island – only pedestrians via a footbridge from the Virginia side of the river.

Source notes

Work Projects Administration. The WPA Guide to Washington, D.C.  New York: Hastings House, 1942. (p. 352 of the 1983 Pantheon Books paperback edition).

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on July 3, 2012.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker, Maureen Budetti.

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


Location Info

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Washington, DC

Coordinates: 38.8972, -77.0641

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