Few presidents have exemplified strong leadership through periods of national despair and dignity to the extent that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did during the Great Depression and the Second World War. His memorial, tucked between the majestic structures dedicated to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, humbly hugs the shore of the Tidal Basin. Its profile is unassuming compared to those of its neighbors, but it is one of the most extensive memorials in the country and encapsulates an era by commemorating the acts and expressions of that era’s greatest leader.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was dedicated in 1997, although Congress established the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Commission in 1955. Architect Lawrence Halprin designed the 7.5-acre stone park, which he divided with red Dakota granite into four open-air galleries – one for each of FDR’s terms as president. Many of Roosevelt’s famous words, urging hope in the face of poverty and humanity in a time of war, are etched into the walls, and sculptures of hunched men waiting in breadlines and leaning over radios to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats dot the grounds. The president himself, much larger than life, is portrayed in stern bronze beside his loyal dog, Fala, with a cloak hiding the wheel chair that supported him since polio left the lower half of his body paralyzed when he was 39 years old.
Although Roosevelt hid his wheel chair from the public, many believe that his achievements in the face of his handicap served only to magnify the force of his will. The fact that the FDR Memorial did not initially portray this facet of the president’s strength incited controversy in the memorial’s early stages, and, shortly after its dedication, President Clinton called for the addition of a statue that depicted Roosevelt in a wheelchair. This statue now stands at the entrance to the handicap-accessible stone park, an inspiring point of reference for the accomplishments that are celebrated throughout the ensuing outdoor rooms.
This peaceful memorial tells visitors the story of a time period that shaped all the years that have followed. Rangers host programs hourly to develop that story, and a bookstore at the entrance offers further resources to those curious about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and World War II. The greatest resource, however, is the memorial itself, whose architecture, words and sculptures make the past tangible.
- Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Staffed 9:30am to 11:30pm, with programs every hour on the hour from 10am to 11pm.
- Metro Stop:
- Blue Line or Orange Line to Smithsonian Station
- Location: Southwest shore of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park., Washington DC
- Phone: 202-426-6841
- Websitee: www.nps.gov