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Top 5 Must See Monuments in D.C.

angela n. from Washington, DC, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Every year millions of people visit our Nation’s Capital to learn more about our nation’s history. Washington D.C. is well known for its plethora of civic monuments, erected to honor and pay tribute to our many ancestors and the veterans that fought bravely for the American people and the American dream. When touring the Capital bear in mind the significance these beautiful civic monuments hold, as they share the stories of major historical moments and public figures, throughout history that helped to shape America into what it is today.

There are several magnificent civic monuments to see while visiting the Washington D.C. area; however, these are the top five that we feel should make it to the top of your list.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built between the years 1848-1884, to honor the first American President, President George Washington, and pay tribute to his military leadership. Talk of creating the Washington Monument had begun many years earlier. However, it wasn’t until his death, in 1799, that the project was revived. Production went on to face many challenges, with lack of funding in the beginning, that is until John Marshal, James Madison and a few other men started the Washington National Monument society. The society allowed the men to raise money and have architects compete, to help determine who would create the monument.

Robert Mills was the lucky architect to be chosen. Some more obstacles ahead including a cease in production due to the Civil War and more funding issues. The monument was finally dedicated in February 1885. If you look at the Washington Monument closely you will see almost half way up there is a color change in the stone where the production process had slowed. The result is a beautiful obelisk monument featuring an Observation area to look out on the Nation’s Capital.

Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln who started out as self-taught lawyer before later turning to politics, was our country’s 16th President. He was commonly referred to as the people’s President, for his acts abolishing slavery. Abraham Lincoln is considered by many as one of the greatest Presidents of all time. This grand memorial was erected in his honor and stands 100-feet tall with a 19-foot-tall statue of the President sitting in a chair. The Lincoln Memorial overlooks the Reflecting Pool and the country he helped to shape into what it is today. Engraved on one side is The Gettysburg Address, and on the other is President Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address.

As you walk up the stairs there is a quote inscribed over the statue of President Lincoln that reads:

“In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in April of 1943. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was constructed in honor of our founding father and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd U.S. President, holding office from 1801-1808.

Interestingly, the monument’s design was actually based off Thomas Jefferson’s very own designs. President Jefferson favored Greek and Roman architecture and the architects used inspiration from two of his own architectural feats, the Monticello and the Rotunda located at the University of Virginia, to design the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in his honor.

The memorial is a dome shaped monument, surrounded by pillars that consist of local materials from several different states. The outside was constructed from White Imperial Danby Marble from Vermont, while the inside walls are crafted of Georgia marble and a pink Tennessee marble adorns the floors. A bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson, designed by Rudolph Evans, is located within the memorial. While there are many quotes inscribed inside the memorial, there is but one quote that is inscribed around the dome ceiling,

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”

The very words originally written in a letter to Benjamin Rush in the 1800s, from President Thomas Jefferson.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument

ariel picture of a four room monument, surrounded by cherry blossom trees
Carol M. Highsmith / Public domain

President Bill Clinton had this monument dedicated to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) in memory of his monumental 12-years of Presidency. The magnificent thing about this monument, is its immense size; as the monument spreads into four separate outdoor areas, with each section representing a term in office. One room honoring FDR has a bronze a statue of him and his dog Fala, whom to this day is still considered to be the most popular first pet. The next room consists of bronze sculpted scenes from the Great Depression, such as a bread line and a fireside chat. A fireside chat was known as radio addresses, that were given by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Another room honors the former First lady Eleanor for her dedication to the United Nations (UN), with a bronze statue of her in front of a United Nations emblem.

This may very well be the most detailed monument, located on the National Mall. The monument also, showcases several different water features. With each feature depicting a significant event that took place during FDR’s time in office.

Korean War Memorial

The Korean War Memorial originally consisted of four parts: soldier statues, remembrance pool, the mural wall, and the United Nations Wall. In 2016, a fifth addition, the Wall of Remembrance, was add to the memorial. The Wall of Remembrance is a half-circle encompassing the Pool of Remembrance, it is made from laminated glass and features the names of 36,574 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War. Also included, are the number of soldiers wounded, Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War.

Soldier Statues

You will see a platoon of statues representing all branches of the military. Each statue is around 7-feet tall and is made of stainless steel. They are surrounded by juniper bushes and granite strips separate the soldiers in representation of the rice paddy fields of Korea.

Mural Wall

This beautiful black granite wall extends 164-feet, featuring photographs, from the National Archives, of the war. The images on the wall are intended to be two dimensional, they were laid out and altered by a computer to give that appearance.

Pool of Remembrance

The pool of remembrance provides a peaceful space for visitor to sit and rest on benches, while reflecting. The Wall of Remembrance, bearing the names of all those that made the ultimate sacrifice, can be seen across from this area. Engraved along the of the wall are the words:

“freedom is not free”

United Nations Wall

Along the pathway between the field of soldiers and the mural wall, there are 22 markers which are each engraved with the name of a nation that, during the war efforts, contributed soldiers to the fight.

The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Monument, and the Korean War Memorial are considered to be the top five most visited civic monuments in Washington D.C. Each monument is unique in its own meaning and represents a piece of our great nation’s history. So, whether you live in the D.C. area or are planning a trip to the area, be sure to add these monuments to your itinerary. Fueled with patriotism, Washington D.C. is hands down, one of the most historically rich cities in America.


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