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Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, modelled after the Pantheon of Rome, is America’s foremost memorial to its third president. The cornerstone was laid 5 November, 1939, by President Roosevelt.

US PRESIDENT NUMBER THREE | Darrin Henry

Try this. Visualise three tourist attractions to see in Washington DC.

I bet there’s a good chance our immediate visions are very similar: The White House; Lincoln Memorial and Washington Memorial?

Even if you don’t know the names, the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting in his chair is iconic USA; that tall, four-sided concrete obelisk of the Washington Monument with its pointy top, and of course the home of the president, the White House itself.

Washington DC is a sightseeing extravaganza; wide open park spaces, a glut of Smithsonian museums, plenty of people for that ‘safety in numbers’ feeling and grand monuments everywhere. We loved Washington DC – or just, “DC” as our friends there called it. Unlike the many deserted city centres we’d encountered across the US, DC was busy.

The city’s architecture we’ve seen on the silver screen for years, it’s as famous as anything anywhere else in the world.

But there are a few monument siblings that seem to live in the shadows of their more renowned family members. One of these is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, built on the south bank of the Tidal Basin.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is located on the south bank of the Tidal Basin near downtown Washington, DC It is open daily from 8:00 am until 11:45 pm every day except Christmas Day.

The statue of Thomas Jefferson looks out from the interior of the Memorial toward the White House. Sculpted by Rudolph Evans, the bronze statue is 19 feet tall and weighs five tonnes.
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

Displayed around the interior of the Memorial, are five quotations taken from Jefferson’s writings that illustrate the principles to which he dedicated his life.
Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

The 19-foot (5.8 m) tall, bronze statue beneath the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. Inscribed below the dome are the word: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
The quote is lifted from a letter written by Jefferson on September 23, 1800, in which he defends the constitutional refusal to recognise a state religion.
Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in 1943, not even 100 years ago. In some ways it’s a reminder of how young America is as the country we know today. The memorial even looks new, like a freshly made plaster cast, gleaming white.

While the Lincoln Memorial’s steps attract crowds like scattered bread crumbs draw pigeons, the scene at the Jefferson Memorial is far more sedate. Perhaps because it’s a tiny little bit out of the way and requires that extra bit of effort to walk there, but in my opinion well worth it.

Thomas Jefferson was born on 13 April, 1743. He was just the third president of the United States, elected in 1800. The list of US presidents is still quite short. Donald Trump is only the 45th. I wonder what a Trump memorial might look like one day! Hmmm.

One of our favourite things about the monuments in Washington DC was to see them floodlit at night.
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

There were a lot of rats running around the outside of the Jefferson Memorial at night; big rats. A couple of dead ones were lying across the pathway around the Tidal Basin and there was plenty of rustling in the bushes. Something to do with the Tidal Lake and all that water I guess. When Sharon and I went back for an after dark photo, we were talking loudly and stomping as much as we could to scare them off.

What struck me most about the Jefferson Memorial was the opulence of it all. Such a huge monument and grounds dedicated to just one person. In London the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square is only 12 feet tall, you could miss it if you don’t look carefully enough. Even the Victoria monument outside Buckingham Palace seems modest in comparison to the DC memorials.

If you’re going to DC be sure to make time for the Jefferson Memorial, it’s a superb attraction, spacious and peaceful; and it’s free. Take time to read the inscriptions and learn a little bit more about America’s third commander in chief.

The colonnaded style of architecture was introduced to the country by Thomas Jefferson. The design by Architect, Russell Pope, is therefore a tribute to the third president’s own architectural tastes.
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC.

COMMENTS

  • neilfantom

    April 13, 2017

    Great blog as always. And there’s a bit of a St Helena connection; about 10 years before he was exiled to St Helena, Jefferson bought most of the US mid-west from Napoleon for about $10 million (the “Louisiana” purchase)!

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