The Thomas Jefferson Memorial history officially began on December 15, 1938, when the ground breaking took place. It wasn't until the next year, on November 15th, 1939, when the cornerstone was laid. But the Jefferson Memorial really started with FDR in 1934. President Roosevelt felt that there should be a Jefferson monument or memorial to honor this fascinating founding father and past President. The Lincoln monument and Washington memorial had already been built, and FDR felt that Jefferson was deserving of his own monument. Continue reading to learn about the Jefferson memorial history and some fun facts about this popular Washington D.C. monument.
A commission was formed in 1934 to choose a location and design for the Jefferson memorial. Finally, in 1936, the final design was decided upon. John Russel Pope was chosen as the designer. His design was based on a neo-classical dome with a portico based on the Pantheon in Rome. Since Jefferson himself loved classical architecture, this design seemed fitting for the design. Jefferson had used some of the same neo-classical design features at his beloved Monticello.
The Jefferson Memorial is located at the south side of the Tidal Basin, surrounded by cherry trees. The cherry trees had been a gift to the city of Washington, D.C., from Tokyo, Japan in 1912. When the Jefferson memorial was first proposed, there was some concern that too many cherry trees would have to be removed. In 1938, a group of indignant women actually chained themselves together in a political statement against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. More trees were planted after construction, and during the blooming period of the cherry trees, this is one of the most photographed sites in D.C.
The statue of Thomas Jefferson was created by Rudolph Evans
You can visit the Jefferson Memorial any time, night or day. It's open 24 hours. But if you want to ask questions, you'll need to visit during the hours of 9:30 A.M. to 11:30 P.M. daily - that's when the rangers are on hand to answer questions. There are some great tour packages for visiting DC monuments - the ones below might interest you...
To visit the official government site about the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, visit nps.gov
For more Jefferson memorial history, you might like this book - The Jefferson Memorial
If you enjoyed these Jefferson memorial facts, you might enjoy reading about some of our other historical monuments and memorials!