Mark Geerdes Washington D.C.
Thursday, April 18, 2013

Written by Mark Geerdes 

Washington D.C. Paper

Throughout the course of my trip I visited many different interesting museums, monuments, and memorials. While on my my trip I visited the Udvar- Hazy Air and Space Museum, the National Archives, the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, our nation’s Capital, the Holocaust Museum, Embassy Row, the Newseum, Arlington National Cemetery, George Washington’s Estate, the Iwo Jima, Lincoln, Vietnam, and Korean monuments as well as the Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King King Memorials. Out of all the very intriguing and magnificent places I visited, the one that stood out the most to me was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Thomas Jefferson is one of the most prominent figures in our nation’s history. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and was a founding father of the United States. As a politician he was a firm believer in equal rights, democracy, education for all, and freedom of religion. As a result he gave form to a nation still looking for its identity. Jefferson was more than just a politician though, he was also an architect, a writer, musician, scientist, and an inventor as well.

The main advocate for the construction of the Jefferson Memorial was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He believed that a man of such importance was deserving of a memorial similar to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Memorial.  Construction of the Jefferson Memorial began on November 15, 1939, and the building was completed on April 13, 1943, on the south bank of the Tidal Basin near downtown Washington D.C.. The bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson was not added until 1947. The reason behind this being that metal was being rationed during the Second World War, so a plaster statue of Jefferson was created instead. When it was all said and done the total cost of building the Jefferson memorial was a little over three million dollars.

John Russell Pope was the architect who designed the Memorial. The memorial was built in the Neoclassical architectural style. The circular, open-air memorial is 165 feet in diameter, with an exterior made of Vermont Imperial Danby marble. The design of the dome is clearly built in reference to the dome of the Pantheon, which Jefferson very much admired. The 54 Ionic columns surrounding the building allow a clear view of the interior from all four sides.  A portico with eight Ionic columns forms the main entrance. A design engraved in the pediment shows Jefferson and his colleagues presenting their draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress.

The interior of the Memorial has a 19 foot tall, 10,000 pound, bronze statue of Jefferson sculpted by Rudolph Evans. Most prominent are the words which are inscribed in a frieze below the dome: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” The interior walls are engraved with inscriptions taken from the Declaration of Independence and other writings of Jefferson’s.

“The architects and builders of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial chose the stones not only for their aesthetic appeal but also for what they help to symbolize. The outer stonework is Vermont Imperial Danby marble, while the interior walls are white Georgia marble; this symbolizes the geographic extremes of the original thirteen states from New England to the Deep South. Inside, we find stone from an expanding Union--floor marble from Tennessee and inner dome limestone from Indiana. Since President Jefferson remains tied to the Louisiana Purchase, his bronze statue stands atop a large block of Minnesota granite with a gray Missouri marble ring surrounding its base; parts of these States had been carved out of the Louisiana Purchase territory.” http://www.nps.gov/thje/faqs.htm

The Jefferson Memorial honors and shows patronage to an American Founding Father, the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, the first Secretary of State, Vice President to the John Adams and the third President of the United States serving two terms. During his presidency Jefferson accomplished many great tasks for the United the States. The most significant of these coming in 1803, when Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from France for 15 million dollars.

This Memorial signifies to me, a man who greatly influenced and helped give the U.S. an identity of its own. Jefferson was a man who knew what he believed. He stood behind what he said, but he also allowed others to have their say as well, which is a very important American ideal.

This was my favorite memorial because I felt like the memorial was very open to the outdoors. The pantheon design made it so that the memorial was not as crowded as many of the others, as well as gave it a beautiful view overlooking the Potomac River.  When the cherry blossoms bloomed you could smell their unmistakable aroma permeate the air. I just felt like while I visited the memorial I had a very enjoyable experience and it was the one place that stuck with me the most.

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