Jefferson Memorial

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The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and the third President of the United States. The neoclassical building was designed by John Russell Pope. It was built by Philadelphia contractor John McShain. Construction began in 1939, the building was completed in 1943, and the bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947.
The Jefferson Memorial is managed by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks division. In 2007, it was ranked fourth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
Construction began on December 15, 1938 and the cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1939, by president Franklin Roosevelt. By this point Pope had died (1937) and his surviving partners, Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers, took over construction of the memorial. The design was modified at the request of the Commission of Fine Arts to a more conservative design.
Construction commenced amid significant opposition. The Commission of Fine Arts never actually approved any design for the Memorial and even published a pamphlet in 1939 opposing both the design and site of the Memorial. In addition, many Washingtonians opposed the site because it was not aligned with L'Enfant's original plan. Finally, many well established elm and cherry trees had to be removed for construction. Construction continued amid the opposition.
In 1939, the Memorial Commission hosted a competition to select a sculptor for the planned statue in the center of the Memorial. They received 101 entries and chose six finalists. Of the six, Rudulph Evans was chosen as the main sculptor and Adolph A. Weinman was chosen to sculpt the pediment relief situated above the entrance.
The Jefferson Memorial was officially dedicated by President Roosevelt on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birthday. At that time, Evans' statue had not yet been finished. Due to material shortages during World War II, the statue that was installed at the time was a plaster cast of Evans' work painted to look like bronze. The finished bronze statue was installed in 1947, having been cast by the Roman Bronze Company of New York.
One of the last American public monuments in the Beaux-Arts tradition,[citation needed] the Memorial was severely criticized even as it was being built, by those who adhered to the modernist argument that dressing 20th century buildings like Greek and Roman ones constituted a "tired architectural lie."[citation needed] More than 60 years ago, Pope responded with silence to critics who dismissed him as part of an enervated architectural elite practicing "styles that are safely dead."[citation needed] As a National Memorial it was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.
Composed of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns, and a shallow dome, the building is open to the elements. Pope made references to the Roman Pantheon and Jefferson's own design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. It is situated in West Potomac Park, on the shore of the Tidal Basin of the Potomac River. The Jefferson Memorial, and the White House located directly north, form one of the main anchor points in the area of the National Mall in D.C. The Washington Monument, just east of the axis on the national Mall, was intended to be located at the intersection of the White House and the site for the Jefferson Memorial to the south, but soft swampy ground which defied 19th century engineering required it be sited to the east.
The interior of the memorial has a 19-foot (5.8 m) tall, 10,000 lb (4336 kg) bronze statue of Jefferson by sculptor Rudulph Evans showing Jefferson looking out toward the White House. This statue was added four years after the dedication. The interior walls are engraved with passages from Jefferson's writings. 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." This sentence is taken from a September 23, 1800, letter by Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush wherein he defends the constitutional refusal to recognize a state religion.
On the panel of the southwest interior wall are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776.
The site of the monument is in Washington D.C. West Potomac Park, on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin, is enhanced with the massed planting of Japanese cherry trees, a gift from the people of Japan in 1912.
The monument is not as prominent in popular culture as other Washington, D.C. buildings and monuments, possibly due to its location well removed from the National Mall and the Washington Metro. The Jefferson Memorial hosts many events and ceremonies each year, including memorial exercises, the Easter Sunrise Service, and the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The monument is open 24 hours a day but park rangers are there only until 11:30 p.m.;however, the monument is only a few hundred yards from the National Park Police D.C. Headquarters in East Potomac Park. (0330 UTC)
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