Washington DC - Potomac Park: Thomas Jefferson Memorial - Declaration of Independence
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We . . . solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states. . . And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, situated in West Potomac Park on the shore of the Tidal Basin of the Potomac River, is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and the third president of the United States. Officially dedicated on April 13, 1943--the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birthday, the Jefferson Memorial is one of the last American public monuments in the Beaux-Arts tradition.
The neoclassical building was designed by John Russell Pope, but the cornerstone wasn't laid until November 15, 1939--2 years after his death. Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers took over construction, and with Philadelphia contractor John McShain, completed the memorial four years later. Composed of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns, and a shallow dome, the building is open to the elements. Pope's design reflects characteristics of the Roman Pantheon, as well as Jefferson's own design for Monticello and the Rotunda at the University of West Virginia. The memorial was constructed with Danby Imperial marble (Vermont) for the exterior walls and columns, Tennessee pink marble for the interior floor, Georgian white marble for the interior wall panels, and Missouri gray marble for the pedestal. Indiana limestone was used in construction of the ceiling. The cost of construction was slightly more than $3 million.
The 19-foot, 10,000-pound heroic bronze statue of Jefferson, resting on a 6-foot pedestal of black Minnesota granite, by sculptor Rudulph Evans was added to the center of the memorial room in 1947. Evans was chosen from more than 100 who participated in a nationwide competition conducted by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission. Adolph A. Weinman's sculpture of the five members of the Declaration of Independence drafting committee submitting their report to Congress is featured on the triangular pediment.
The interior walls are engraved in bronze with passages from Jefferson's writings. Most prominent are the words, taken from from a September 23, 1800, letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, which are inscribed in a frieze below the dome: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." On the panel of the southwest interior wall are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence. On the panel of the northwest interior wall is an excerpt from "A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1777", except for the the last sentence, which is taken from a letter of August 28, 1789 to James Madison. The quotes from the panel of the northeast interior wall are from multiple sources including "A Summary View of the Rights of British America," Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson's autobiography, an August 13, 1790 letter to George Wythe, and a letter of January 4, 1786 to George Washington. The inscription on the panel of the southeast interior wall is redacted and excerpted from a letter July 12, 1816, to Samuel Kercheval.
In 2007, The Jefferson Memorial was ranked #4 on the AIA 150 America's Favorite Architecture list.
National Register #66000029 (1966)