The Significance of Civic & Community Monuments

photo taken by flickr user dbking / CC BY

Civic monuments, also known as community monuments serve as a beautiful reminder as they combined history, art, and culture into one decided master piece. Community monuments are often erected in honor of, or to pay tribute to an important person, group of people, or an event that played a significant role in history. Community monuments are, in many ways, the footprint we leave behind for future generations. Community monuments are a way to share our stories and remind those that come after us of the historical events and people that came before them. A lasting reminder of how those people and events helped to shape our nation into what it is today.

Community, or civic monuments, can be craft to pay tribute to a local hero or community leader, or to honor community pioneers, achievements, and civic heritage. In addition, a civic monument may be erected to mark a historical site or event in history. Community and civic monuments can be seen across America, with a few of the most influential historical monuments located right here in Arlington and the Washington D.C. area, or Nation’s Capital.

The Confederate Memorial in Arlington, VA

Once upon a time, on the heels of the Civil War, the divide between the North and South had created such animosity that Arlington National Cemetery was considered to be inclusive only to the Union’s fallen soldiers. However, despite this common perception hundreds of Confederate soldiers had been laid to rest there.

“Family members of Confederate soldiers were denied permission to decorate their loved ones’ graves and in extreme cases were even denied entrance to the cemetery.”

With the Spanish American war came the opportunity for the North and South to reunite as one nation, and a section of the cemetery was dedicated specifically as a resting ground for Confederate soldiers. Some 14 years later in 1914, the Confederate Monument was revealed to the public and veterans from both the North and the South decorated the graves with wreaths in a symbolic gesture of unity.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, Washington D.C.

The first African American to be honored with a monument in Washington D.C. delivered the infamous “I have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the Civil Rights Movement. Today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s monument stands tall between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and is one of only four monuments in the D.C. area, erected in honor of non- presidents.
Rising from the Mountain of Despair, standing a magnificent 30-feet high is the Stone of Hope, featuring a skillfully sculpted statue of Dr. King carved directly into the stone. This monument reads:

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

The civic monument is also encompassed by a 450-foot wall, that is inscribed with other quotes from Dr. King. When visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, “Visitors enter through the Mountain of Despair and tour the memorial as if moving through the struggles that Dr. King faced during his life.”

World War ll Memorial

The World War II Memorial was erected in the center most part of the National Mall, in Washington D.C. This monument represents a defining moment in American history and pays tribute to the more than 400,000 American soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as, the 16 million American soldiers that served during World War II. This memorial is a symbol and a testament to, “the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people”.

This breathtaking monument consists of multiple symbolic features, to include:

  • An arch on either side to represent the Pacific theater and the Atlantic theater.
  • 56 pillars, in a semicircle, designed to represent the 48 U.S. States, D.C., and 7 Federal territories.
  • There are two walls as you enter, the left leads to the Pacific arch displaying iconic images, and the right leading to the   Atlantic arch displaying iconic scenes more typical for European theater.
  • A Freedom Wall, located on the west side of the memorial, with 4,048 stars. Each star represents 100 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Check out Washington D.C.’s guide to Visiting the National WWII Memorial for additional details about this civic monument.
Civic, or community monuments are more than architectural feats and works of art, they are a symbolic representation of a historical significance. Strategically crafted to serve as reminders and share the stories of some of the most influential people and events throughout history, that helped to create the nation we so proudly live in today. Designed to endure the tests of time these monuments are sure to invoke an emotional response from all that experience them.

By photo taken by flickr user dbking (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

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