Jefferson Memorial - History and Facts | History Hit

Jefferson Memorial

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a Roman style memorial structure in honour of one of America’s Founding Fathers.

Peta Stamper

24 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC’s West Potomac Park was built in 1939 to honour President Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and its third president.

With its white facade, imposing columns and circular silhouette crowned by a dome, the Jefferson Memorial is reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon, as intended by its architect John Russell Pope.

Jefferson Memorial history

The concept of building a memorial to Thomas Jefferson was first encouraged by President Franklin Roosevelt – an admirer of Jefferson – and construction of the memorial began on 15 December 1938. Despite some controversy over the memorial’s neoclassical design and location, the build continued throughout America’s entry into World War Two.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was dedicated by President Roosevelt on 13 April 1943, the 200th anniversary of his birthday. The bronze sculpture of Thomas Jefferson inside the memorial, made by Rudulph Evans, was added in 1947 and stands next to inscribed excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson co-authored in 1776. In fact, the inscription even used Jefferson’s phrasing in his draft, saying ‘inalienable’ rather than ‘unalienable’.

Jefferson Memorial today

Today, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a popular tourist attraction as well as a setting of festivals and ceremonies. You cannot fail to miss the grand marble steps leading to a portico and circular colonnade from the Tidal Basin, and inside, visitors will be greeted by the 5.8 metres-tall bronze statue of Jefferson himself.

The memorial is also a peaceful spot outside busy tourist hours, surrounded by cherry blossom trees gifted from Japan in 1912.

Getting to the Jefferson Memorial

Open 24 hours a day, the Jefferson Memorial is located near many other sites of historical importance (such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and National Mall) and is directly south of the White House. Following the path around the basin’s sites, the memorial is easily found on foot. Otherwise, buses stop at East Basin Drive SW at the Jefferson Memorial.

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