FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.

Engraved memorial wall, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington DC, USA. Getty Images
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The Design for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Picture of a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the FDR Memorial.
Statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the FDR Memorial. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)

For decades, three presidential monuments stood along the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. as a reminder of America's past. In 1997, a fourth presidential monument was added - the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

It Took Decades

In August 1955, ten years after FDR's death, Congress established a commission to create a memorial to Roosevelt, the 32nd U.S. president. Four years later, a location for the memorial was found. The memorial was to be located half way between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, along the Tidal Basin.

Although several design competitions were held over the years, it wasn't until 1978 that a design was chosen. The commission chose Lawrence Halprin's memorial design, a 7.5 acre memorial that represented both President Roosevelt and his era. With only a few changes, Halprin's design was built.

The Design

Unlike the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials which are compact, covered and focused on a single statue of each president, the FDR memorial is vast, uncovered, and focused on numerous statues, quotes, and waterfalls.

Halprin's design honors FDR by telling the story of the president and the country in a chronological order. Since Roosevelt was elected to four terms of office, Halprin created four "rooms" to represent the twelve years of Roosevelt's presidency.

The rooms, however, are not easily defined and the memorial is more accurately described as a long, meandering path, bordered by walls made of red South Dakota granite.

Since FDR brought the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, dedicated on May 2, 1997, now stands as a reminder of some of America's tougher times.

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Entrance to the FDR Memorial

Picture of the entrance to the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
Entrance to the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
Although visitors can access the FDR Memorial from several directions, I highly recommend that you start at the beginning. Since the memorial is organized chronologically, it would be easier to follow if started near this sign.

This large sign with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's name creates an imposing and strong entrance to the memorial. To the left of this wall, sits the memorial's bookshop. The opening to the right of this wall is the entrance to the memorial. However, before you go further, take a close look at the statue to the far right.

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Statue of FDR in a Wheelchair

FDR in his wheelchair. Getty Images
This ten-foot statue of FDR in a wheelchair caused a great deal of controversy. In 1920, more than a decade before he was elected president, FDR was struck by polio. Although he survived the illness, his legs remained paralyzed.

Despite the fact that FDR often used a wheelchair in private, he hid his ailment from public view by using supports to help him stand.

When constructing FDR Memorial, many argued whether or not to present FDR in a position that he had so diligently hid from view. Yet, his efforts to overcome his handicap well represented his determinism.

In the end, it was decided to create this statue, a monument to FDR as he truly lived.

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The First Waterfall

A picture of the first waterfall in the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
The first waterfall in the FDR Memorial. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
Throughout this memorial you will find several waterfalls. This one creates a beautiful sheet of water. I have been told that in the winter, the water freezes - some say, making it even more beautiful.
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View From Room 1 to Room 2

A picture that shows the vastness of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
A picture that shows the vastness of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
The FDR Memorial is very large, covering 7.5 acres. Every corner has some kind of display, statue, quote, or waterfall. Unfortunately, I was not able to photograph every detail. However, I think this view will give you more of a feeling of being there than some of the other, more specific, photographs. This is the walk from Room 1 to Room 2.
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The Fireside Chat

A picture of the fireside chat sculpture in the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
"The Fireside Chat" sculpture by George Segal. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
"The Fireside Chat," a sculpture by George Segal, shows a man listening intently to one of FDR's radio broadcasts. To the right of the statue is a quote: "I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust."
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The Rural Couple

A picture of the Rural Couple sculpture at the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
"The Rural Couple" sculpture by George Segal. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
On one wall, you will find two scenes. The one on the left is "The Rural Couple," another sculpture by George Segal.
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Breadline

A picture of the Breadling sculpture in the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
"Breadline" sculpture by George Segal in the FDR Memorial. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
To the right, you will find "Breadline" (created by George Segal). The sorrowful faces of the life-size statues are a powerful expression of the times, showing the inactivity and troubles of everyday citizens during the Great Depression. Many visitors to the memorial pretend to stand in line to have their picture taken.
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Quote

Picture of one of the 21 quotes found at the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
Quote by FDR, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.". (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
In the middle of these two scenes is this quote, one of the 21 quotes that can be found at the memorial. All the inscriptions were carved by John Benson.
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The New Deal

Picture of the New Deal area of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
The area at the FDR Memorial that represents the New Deal. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
Walking around the wall, you would come into this open area with five tall pillars and a large mural, created by Robert Graham, representing the New Deal.

The five-paneled mural is a collage of various scenes and objects, including initials, faces, and hands; the images on the mural are inverted on the five columns.

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Waterfall in Room 2

A picture of the waterfall in Room 2 of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
Waterfall in Room 2 of the FDR Memorial. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
The waterfalls that are scattered throughout the FDR Memorial do not run as smoothly now. They are small, but are broken by rocks or other structures. The noise from the waterfalls increases as you go on. Perhaps this is the beginning of "troubled waters." There will be even larger waterfalls in Room 3.
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Room 3: World War II

Picture of a war quote in Room 3 of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
Quote found in Room 3 of the FDR Memorial: "I have seen war. I hate war.". (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
World War II was the dominant event of FDR's third term.
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Waterfall in Room 3

Picture of the waterfall in Room 3 of the FDR Memorial in Washinton D.C.
The waterfall in Room 3 of the FDR Memorial is broken by large chunks of granite. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)
The war ravaged the country. This waterfall is much larger than the others and there are large chunks of granite scattered about. The war attempted to break the fabric of the country as the scattered stones represent the possible break of the memorial.
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FDR and Fala

The FDR Memorial in Washington DC in snow. Getty Images
To the left of the waterfall, sits a very large sculpture of FDR, larger than life. Yet FDR remains human, sitting beside his dog, Fala. Sculpted by Neil Estern.

FDR doesn't get to see the end of the war, but he continues to fight in Room 4.

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Eleanor Roosevelt Statue

Picture of the Eleanor Roosevelt sculpture in Room 4 of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C.
Sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt in Room 4 of the FDR Memorial. (Photo by Jennifer Rosenberg)

A sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt, standing next to the United Nations emblem.

To the left reads the quote: "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation, it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world."

This statue is the first time a first lady has been honored in a presidential memorial.

A beautiful, very large waterfall ends the memorial. Perhaps to show the strength and endurance of the U.S.?