Designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1978, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial was built to honor the 32nd president of the United States. The memorial is divided into four outdoor “rooms,” signifying FDR’s four terms in office. Sprawling over seven acres, the memorial features 21 FDR quotes, along with accompanying statues and murals representing major events during Roosevelt’s four terms, including World War II and the Great Depression. The structure is made out of red South Dakota granite and was the first memorial built to be wheelchair accessible. It is also the only Presidential memorial to include a First Lady; a bronze statue of Eleanor Roosevelt stands beside the United Nations emblem. The National Park Service estimates that 2.8 million people visit the memorial each year.
The memorial honors Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, which lasted four terms from 1933 to his death in 1945. FDR led the nation through a worldwide economic depression and the Second World War, and was the only American president to be elected to more than two terms. Roosevelt once joked to his friend, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, that if Congress ever made a monument in his honor, he would like it to be no larger than the size of his desk and placed in front of the National Archives. Obliging this request, Congress placed a desk size stone and a plaque in honor of FDR in that exact location. However, a few years later, Congress decided that this was not enough of a tribute and selected a location in West Potomac Park along the Tidal Basin for a much larger memorial. The design of the memorial was chosen in 1978, and it opened to the public in 1997 after a dedication ceremony led by President Bill Clinton.
The FDR Memorial is free and open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Park Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Interpretive programs are provided every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The most convenient way to reach the FDR Memorial is by Metrobus or Metro. The closest Metro station is Smithsonian, located on the Orange and Blue lines. As for the bus, take either the 32, 34, or 36 Metrobus routes. If traveling by car, visitor parking is available along Ohio Drive in Lots A, B and C. Handicapped parking spaces are set aside at locations on West Basin Drive in front of the memorial.
The FDR Memorial is located along the Potomac River Tidal Basin, just a mile south of the White House. Other memorials located along the Tidal Basin are the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial are also in close proximity. It is also within reasonable distance of the Holocaust Museum, East Potomac Park and the Southwest Waterfront, which hosts the nation’s longest-running public fish market.
- President Roosevelt’s First Pet, Fala, is the only presidential pet to be memorialized. The FDR memorial has one statue of the Scottie while another exists in Puerto Rico at the “Paseo de los Presidentes.”
- The memorial depicts a scene from “fireside chats,” evening radio addresses from President Roosevelt which forever changed how the president interacted with citizens of the U.S.
- Another more modest memorial to President Roosevelt exists outside the National Archives.
- Water is used as a metaphorical device in the memorial, from waterfalls depicting World War II and the Depression to the still pool representing the 32nd president’s death.
- It took Congress 20 years to finally appropriate the funds for the memorial.