5 Things You Didn't Know About The Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial was built to honor the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Ground was broken for the Jefferson Memorial on December 15, 1938, the 147th anniversary of the adoption of the American Bill of Rights. Here are five things you didn't know about the Jefferson Memorial.


It Was Once The Site Of A Popular Beach In Washington The Tidal Basin, which is the center of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival and the setting of the Jefferson Memorial, was originally a popular beach that once featured a cabana and diving platform. At the time,  this summertime swimming hole was a "whites only" facility.  After much debate over establishing a similar beach site for African Americans, it was decided that the Tidal Basin would be closed to everyone instead.

It Was Originally A Memorial Site For Theodore Roosevelt Once the Tidal Basin beach was closed to the public in 1925, the site was slated to house a memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt. Architect John Russell Pope (who had lost the Lincoln Memorial competition in 1911) won a competition to design the memorial,  which would have included “two quarter-circle colonnades flanking a large circular basin, which was to contain a central island with an arrangement of a sculpture and a fountain,” according to the National Park Service. The memorial never came to be, as there was no government funding available for it at the time.


The Construction Of The Jefferson Memorial Sparked The 'Cherry Tree Rebellion' The site of the Jefferson Memorial was marked by lush cherry trees, which were a gift to the city from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. But there was great concern that the construction of the memorial would cause damage to these beloved trees, which sparked outrage from the community. In late 1938, 50 women protested at the White House against the destruction of the cherry trees as a result of the construction of the memorial. Some protesters even chained themselves to a tree at the site, an event that would eventually be known as the "Cherry Tree Rebellion."

The Bronze Statue Weighs 10,000 Pounds And Stands 19 Feet Tall Considering the magnitude of Jefferson's statue and its bronze material, it should come as no surprise that it weighs quite a bit. Jefferson's likeness was originally made of plaster as a result of the shortage of metal during the Second World War. Four years later, a permanent bronze statue was installed, leading to the structure's colossal weight of 10,000 pounds. The dome of the Jefferson Memorial is 165 feet in diameter and contains 26 pillars.

It Was Dedicated On The 200th Anniversary of Jefferson's Birthday Although construction began on December 15, 1938, the cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1939, by Franklin Roosevelt. By this point John Russell Pope had died (1937) and his surviving partners, Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers, took over construction of the Jefferson Memorial. memorial. It was officially dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday.