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THOMAS JEFFERSON MEMORIAL
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Dedicated: April 13, 1943
Design Architect: John Russell Pope
Highlights: Pantheon design, 19 foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Lowlights: Loads of controversy surrounding its planning and construction.
Location: Washington, D.C, due south of the Tidal Basin.
Hours: Open daily, 8am to midnight, closed December 25.
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The author of the Declaration of Independence and a true Renaissance man, Thomas Jefferson was many things; an architect, musician, political philosopher, scientist, horticulturist, inventor, diplomat, book collector, and the third President of the United States. Jefferson strongly believed the individual rights of man and supporting government is best derived by the people, for the people. Based on those beliefs, it's no surprise that his most important contribution to the Nation was his insistence in forming a democracy and not an autocracy, contrary to many minds of that era.
In a nutshell, Jefferson played an integral role in America's early history. An important participant of the Revolution, Jefferson established reasons and precidents to help push the colonies to independence, he represented American interests abroad while a proper Constitution was drafted at home, he was America's first Secretary of State under President Washington, he lead the country for two terms as the third President of the United States, and was instrumental in expanding America's boundaries by leaps and bounds with acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase.
The evolution of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial has a storied history, the most interesting of it surrounded in controversy. Lacking an important tribute to Jefferson's accomplishments, the government decides to erect a memorial in his honor, with planning starting in 1936.
Problems with the memorial first surface when, in a very undemocratic and very un-Jeffersonian like fashion, the memorial's architect is selected without a design competition. From there, add on squabbling about the design between two government commissions, protests about having to cut down a grove of cherry trees, and public concerns about spending an upwards of $3 million during the Great Depression era, it's amazing it was ever erected at all.
Fortunately, clearer heads prevailed, and in 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth, the memorial is dedicated. In the end, the public is delivered an impressive memorial of Pantheon design that stands almost 130 feet high and houses a 19-foot bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson.
I've just arrived at the memorial and am making my way to its front. Come with me and experience this fine tribute to the man who gave so much to his country.
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