Memorial Day Weekend In Washington DC

Einstein Memorial
Einstein Memorial

That’s very clever! It’s the equations for the theory of general relativity, the photoelectric effect and the equivalence of energy and matter!

Einstein Memorial
Einstein Memorial

The Einstein memorial, on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, was unveiled at the Academy’s annual meeting, April 22, 1979, in honor of the centennial of Einstein’s birth. At the dedication ceremony, physicist John Archibald Wheeler described the statue as “a monument to the man who united space and time into space-time… a remembrance of the man who taught us… that the universe does not go on from everlasting to everlasting, but begins with a bang.”

The sculptor, Robert Berks, known for his portrait busts and statues (John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Center; Mary McLeod Bethune in Lincoln Park), based the work on a bust of Einstein he sculpted from life in 1953 at Einstein’s Princeton home. Landscape architect James A. Van Sweden designed the monument landscaping.

Einstein Memorial
Einstein Memorial

The statue and bench are at one side of a circular dais made from emerald-pearl granite from Larvik, Norway. Embedded in the dais are more than 2,700 metal studs representing the location of astronomical objects, including the (sun, moon, planets, 4 asteroids, 5 galaxies, 10 quasars, and many stars) at noon on April 22, 1979, when the memorial was dedicated. The studs are different sizes to denote the apparent magnitude of the relevant object, and different studs denote binary stars, spectroscopic binaries, pulsars, globular clusters, open clusters, and quasars. Familiar constellations are marked on the map for easy identification.

Einstein Memorial
Einstein Memorial

Along the back of the bench, behind the statue, three famous quotations from the scientist are inscribed. They were selected to reflect Einstein’s sense of wonder, scientific integrity, and concern for social justice. They are :

“As long as I have any choice in the matter, I shall live only in a country where civil liberty, tolerance, and equality of all citizens before the law prevail.”
“Joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of this world of which man can just form a faint notion …”
“The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”

A short walk away from the Einstein Memorial is Lincoln Memorial, which marks one end of the National Mall.

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, dedicated in 1922, was built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The architect was Henry Bacon and the designer of the primary statue of Abraham Lincoln was Daniel Chester French. The statue was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers; and the interior murals were painted by Jules Guerin.

Abraham Lincoln statue at Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln statue at Lincoln Memorial

Above each of the Lincoln Memorial Inscriptions is a mural painted by Jules Guerin graphically portraying governing principles evident in Lincoln’s life. Both scenes contain a background of cypress trees, the emblem of Eternity. The murals were crafted with a special mixture of paint which included elements of kerosene and wax to protect the exposed artwork from fluctuations in temperature and moisture conditions.

Along the National Mall

Entitled Emancipation, the south mural above the Gettysburg Address represents Freedom and Liberty.The central panel shows the Angel of Truth releasing slaves from the shackles of bondage.On the left hand side of the mural Justice and Law are represented. On the right hand side, Immortality is the central figure surrounded by Faith, Hope and Charity.

Along the National Mall

Entitled Unity, the north mural located above the Second Inaugural Address, features the Angel of Truth joining the hands of two figures representing the north and south. Her protective wings cradle figures representing the arts of Painting, Philosophy, Music, Architecture, Chemistry, Literature, and Sculpture. Emerging from behind the Music figure is the veiled image of the future.The left group represents Fraternity while the right group represents Charity. The fourth figure from the left of the Angel of Truth is Lincoln Memorial architect Henry Bacon.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with Washington Monument in the background
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with Washington Monument in the background

Henry Bacon also designed the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, constructed in 1922 and 1923, following the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial.

Little duckling in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
Little duckling in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

At the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool is the World War II Memorial, opened in 2004.

Fountain at the World War II Memorial with the Washington Monument behind
Fountain at the World War II Memorial with the Washington Monument behind

Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of small triumphal arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, the World War II Monument sits on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool,

World War II Memorial
World War II Memorial

The Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 as a tribute to George Washington’s military leadership from 1775-1783 during the American Revolution. The cornerstone was laid in an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony in 1848. Lack of funds and the illegal election which placed the Washington National Monument Society in the hands of the Know-Nothings, a political party, caused delay. Although the Know-Nothings returned all records to the original society in 1858, the latter could accomplish little without funding. The US Army Corps of Engineers of the War Department was charged with completing the construction, and the monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and officially opened to the public on October 9, 1888.

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

The National Mall with all the neoclassical style buildings was the first explicit attempt to utilize the vaguely classical Beaux-Arts architectural style, which emerged from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It was the Senate Park Commission’s redesign of the monumental core of Washington DC to commemorate the city’s centennial. The McMillan Plan of 1901-02, named for Senator James McMillan, the commission’s liaison and principal backer in Congress, was the United States’ first attempt at city planning.

The original plans of Pierre L’Enfant had been largely unrealized in the growth of the city, and with the country’s growing prominence in the international arena, Congress decided that Washington DC should be brought to the magnificence decreed in L’Enfant’s plan. Members of the commission convened by the Congress included Daniel Burnham, Charles McKim, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Frederick Olmsted, all alumni of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Together they sought to revitalize the capital city through the monumental forms of the Beaux-Arts style.

The group visited the “great cities” of Europe. Vienna, Paris, and the town planning of Germany were their destinations in an attempt to recover the spirit of L’Enfant. Their pilgrimage in general, and their specific itinerary, reflected the reverence of the City Beautiful mentality for the culture of the Old World. The broad Parisian avenues and gardens of Versailles were a great influence on the men, and with their predilection for the Beaux-Arts style, an understandable influence on the final plan.

The plan itself was a reworking of L’Enfant’s plan, creating a monumental core, a great public Mall, and a series of public gardens.

Along the National Mall

Pierre Charles L’Enfant came to America from France to fight in the Revolutionary War and rose from obscurity to become a trusted city planner for George Washington. L’Enfant designed the city from scratch, envisioning a grand capital of wide avenues, public squares and inspiring buildings in what was then a district of hills, forests, marshes and plantations.

The centerpiece of L’Enfant’s plan was a great “public walk”. Today’s National Mall is a wide, straight strip of grass and trees that stretches for three kilometers, from Capitol Hill to the Potomac River. Smithsonian museums flank both sides and war memorials are embedded among the famous monuments to Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson.

National Mall - Washington Monument to Capitol Building
National Mall – Washington Monument to Capitol Building

Washington DC was established in 1790 when an act of Congress authorized a federal district along the Potomac River, a location offering an easy route to the western frontier (via the Potomac and Ohio River valleys) and conveniently situated between the northern and southern states.

President Washington chose an area of land measuring 260 square kilometers where the Eastern Branch (today’s Anacostia River) met the Potomac just north of Mount Vernon, his Virginia home. The site already contained the lively port towns of Alexandria and Georgetown, but the new nation needed a federal center with space dedicated to government buildings.

Washington asked L’Enfant, by then an established architect, to survey the area and recommend locations for buildings and streets. The Frenchman arrived in Georgetown on a rainy night in March 1791 and immediately got to work. Inspired by the topography, L’Enfant went beyond a simple survey and envisioned a city where important buildings would occupy strategic places based on changes in elevation and the contours of waterways.

While Thomas Jefferson had already sketched out a small and simple federal town, L’Enfant reported back to the president with a much more ambitious plan. L’Enfant presented the plan for a new capital worthy of the aspirations laid out in the Declaration of Independence. For many, the thought of a metropolis rising out of a rural area seemed impractical for a fledgling nation, but L’Enfant won over an important ally. His design was based on European models translated to American ideals. The entire city was built around the idea that every citizen was equally important. The Mall was designed as open to all comers.

L’Enfant placed Congress on a high point with a commanding view of the Potomac, instead of reserving the grandest spot for the leader’s palace as was customary in Europe. Capitol Hill became the center of the city from which diagonal avenues named after the states radiated, cutting across a grid street system. These wide boulevards allowed for easy transportation across town and offered views of important buildings and common squares from great distances. Public squares and parks were evenly dispersed at intersections.

Capitol Building
Capitol Building, seat of the US Congress

Pennsylvania Avenue stretched a mile west from the Capitol to the White House, and its use by officials ensured rapid development for the points in between. For the rural area to become a real city, L’Enfant knew it was crucial to incorporate planning strategies encouraging construction. But his refusal to compromise led to frequent clashes that eventually cost him his position.

White House
White House

City commissioners were concerned with funding the project and appeasing the District’s wealthy landowners didn’t share L’Enfant’s vision. The planner irked the commissioners when he demolished a powerful resident’s house to make way for an important avenue and when he delayed producing a map for the sale of city lots (fearing real estate speculators would buy up land and leave the city vacant).

Eventually, the city’s surveyor, Andrew Ellicott, produced an engraved map that provided details for lot sales. It was very similar to L’Enfant’s plan (with practical changes suggested by officials), but the Frenchman got no credit for it. L’Enfant, now furious, resigned at the urging of Thomas Jefferson. When L’Enfant died in 1825 he had never received payment for his work on the capital and the city was still a backwater.

In the 1800s, cows grazed on the Mall, which was then an irregularly shaped, tree-covered park with winding paths. Trains passing through a railroad station on the Mall interrupted debate in Congress. Visitors ridiculed the city for its idealistic pretensions in a bumpkin setting and there was even talk after the Civil War of moving the capital to Philadelphia or the Midwest.

In 1901, the Senate formed the McMillan Commission, a team of architects and planners who updated the capital based largely on L’Enfant’s original framework. Reclaimed land dredged from the river expanded the park to the west and south, making room for the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The core of the Mall was to be a broad grass carpet, typical of those in Europe, running the entire length of the Mall grounds, bordered on each side by four rows of American elm trees. Public buildings were to border the whole, separated from the elms by narrow roadways. The Commission’s work finally created the famous green center and plentiful monuments of today’s Washington, a tapis vert that was similar to elements at Versailles and Schoenbrunn Palace gardens in Vienna.

Tapis Vert Versailles
Tapis Vert Versailles
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna

The buildings surrounding the Capitol eventually included Burnham’s immense Union Station and Columbus Plaza. The placement of this railroad station is important in the 1901 plan. Not only does it demonstrate the Commission’s mania for symmetry, harmony and building groups rather than individual buildings, it also demonstrates its power. For the preceding decades the Pennsylvania railroad had its station at the base of Capitol Hill, its tracks cutting across the Mall. Daniel Burnham, used his influence with the railroad’s president, Alexander Cassatt, and convinced him to move his station, as a matter of civic beauty and national loyalty! The new Rome would surpass the old Rome.

Washington DC - Union Station with Columbus monument at the front
Washington DC – Union Station with Columbus monument at the front

Some of L’Enfant’s plans, including a huge waterfall cascading down Capitol Hill, were never realized. But the National Mall has been a great success, used for everything from picnics to protests. The American people took to the Mall in the 20th century and turned it into a great civic stage.

No restaurants on the great civic stage, so Puffles and Honey went to a pub in Bethesda. Because they could! But they can’t remember the name…

Pub in Bethesda
Pub in Bethesda

One thought on “Memorial Day Weekend In Washington DC”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s