This exquisite monument is a memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father Extraordinaire and third President of the United States. This magnificent structure was designed by John Russell Pope and was built by John McShain. It's not as old as it appears: construction began in 1939 and was completed in 1943, which is somewhat surprising considering that it was being worked on during the height of the war. The bronze statue of Jefferson wasn't added until 1947. Roosevelt himself apparently inquired about erecting a memorial to Jefferson, even going so far as to include it in the Federal Triangle project, but a congressman, John Boylan who urged the Congress to create a memorial commission, which was eventually appropriated $3 million to create one. Pope was chosen in 1935, having already served as the architect of the National Archives Building, and was clearly no stranger to neo-Classical architecture. FDR laid the foundation stone on November 15, 1939, but Pope had died in 1937, so the work continued under the direction of his surviving partners, who modified the design somewhat.
The building is composed of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic columns and a shallow dome. From the front, the main structure highly resembles the Pantheon in Rome, which Jefferson had designed for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. The monument is situated in West Potomac Park on the shore of the Tidal Basin, serving as one of the anchor points in the area of the National Mall. The interior features a 20-foot tall bronze sculpture of Jefferson, which weighs a reported 10,000 pounds (4,336 kg). It shows him looking in the direction of the White House. Many events are held in the vicinity each year, including the Easter Sunrise Service and the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the stunning cherry trees planted nearby, a gift from the people of Japan in 1912. Perhaps because of its more remote location, this monument is not as visited or popular as some of the others, but I think it's the most magnificent.
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batalay (38773) 2014-07-12 17:08
Jefferson as President, and his memorial in the Tidal Basin, both remain my favorites in their respective classes. A major reason it is not visited is that the parking area has been removed, I imagine for security reasons. I still like to go in and read the third President's extraordinary words. Of course, John Russell Pope's design was inspired by the Rotunda in Charlottesville, and the Rotunda in turn was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. In 2009 I gave a talk in the Rotunda to a room full of professors of medicine from the UVA and elsewhere, and the heavy hitters among the donors to UVA. I opened by mentioning John Kennedy's address to 30 Nobel Laureates in 1962. He opened his speech by saying, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."