Curious Facts About the Jefferson Memorial
America’s third President, author of the Declaration of Independence and the first Secretary of State, lived during a time of inconceivable hardships, and he rose to the occasion unflinchingly. The Jefferson Memorial was built (and later, restored) to honor Thomas Jefferson’s service to the country. Work on the neoclassical building was begun in 1939 by contractor John McShain, working from designs by architect John Russell Pope. Although the building itself was completed in 1943, the bronze statue of the great man himself wasn’t installed until 1947.
The Tidal Basin was once a popular swimming spot.
Fill dredged from the Potomac River was used to create the solid ground on which the Jefferson Memorial stands today. But prior to that, the Tidal Basin had been a popular recreational spot for swimmers since the 1880s. In 1914, Congress approved a measure to create an official beach. Unfortunately, it was segregated, and black Americans were forced to swim at an area across the Tidal Basin that lacked facilities. About a decade later, swimming was banned at the Tidal Basin altogether.
The Jefferson Memorial was almost a multipurpose memorial.
By the early 1900s, there was some talk about building a memorial on the Tidal Basin dedicated to various “ illustrious men of the nation .” It isn’t clear exactly which men would have been honored by this multipurpose memorial. But apparently, the idea didn’t have many supporters, and it never came to fruition.
Area residents didn’t want the memorial at the Tidal Basin.
Quite a few people were opposed to the proposed location of the Jefferson Memorial. Some didn’t like the idea that the memorial’s construction would require the removal of some beautiful, fully grown cherry and elm trees. Others simply thought that Jefferson had been too humble of a man to have a memorial located so near the White House.
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