The dome-shaped Jefferson Memorial is an iconic American structure. While its shape is an obvious nod to the Pantheon of Rome, it also mirrors the University of Virginia rotunda, a structure designed by Jefferson himself. The memorial is located in West Potomac Park on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin, at the southern end of the National Mall. The interior of the memorial contains a 19-foot statue of Thomas Jefferson, and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, which he authored, can be found on the southwest interior wall. The memorial is noted for its circular marble steps, portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns and a shallow dome. The National Park Service estimates that more than two million people visit the Jefferson Memorial each year.
The memorial honors third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers as well as the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and adviser to the Constitution. Its architect was John Russell Pope, who modeled the memorial after Jefferson’s own architectural preferences. Pope passed away in 1937 during construction, at which point the project was inherited by Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers. The location along the Tidal Basin was selected in 1937, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the memorial in 1939. Rudolph Evans sculpted the statue of Jefferson, and the memorial received its dedication in 1943. It has hosted numerous ceremonies, including the world-famous National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Jefferson Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day. 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 Jefferson Memorial is by bus 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, as well as limited handicapped parking. However, note that street parking is scarce.
The Jefferson Memorial is located along the Potomac River Tidal Basin, just a mile south of the White House. Other memorials located on the Tidal Basin are the FDR Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. As a part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the memorial is not far from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and many other famous landmarks in DC. It also is in proximity to the Holocaust Museum, East Potomac Park and the Southwest Waterfront, which hosts the nation’s longest-running public fish market.
- The Jefferson Memorial used marble in its construction from four different states : Vermont, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.
- The total cost of the memorial was more than $3 million.
- The memorial contains 26 pillars, which represents the number of U.S. states in existence at the time of Jefferson’s death.
- Because metals were rationed during World War II, the statue of Jefferson was originally cast in plaster. Once the war ended, a bronze statue replaced the one made of plaster.
- The distance to the top of the memorial’s dome is over 129 feet.