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Visiting the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Wander through this sprawling memorial, uniquely designed to guide visitors through FDR’s four presidential terms
A visit to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is to be transported to a trying time in American history, an era rife with economic depression and international conflict. The memorial, which honors the 32nd president of the United States, is composed of four “rooms” which represent each of President Roosevelt’s four terms as commander in chief. Bronze sculptures of the president, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, his trusty canine and First Pet Fala, as well as scenes from the Great Depression of fireside chats and waiting in bread lines are surrounded by engravings of 21 famous quotes and waterfalls and fountains cascading over red South Dakota granite. The memorial provides an in-depth experience and unparalleled insight into the trials and tribulations of America’s longest serving president.
Planning your visit to the FDR Memorial
The FDR Memorial, which is located along the Tidal Basin in between the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jefferson memorials, opened to the public in 1997 and is maintained by the National Park Service. Like all the monuments and memorials on the National Mall, the FDR Memorial is free and open to the public. The memorial is also the first on the National Mall to be built wheelchair accessible. Given its location on the Tidal Basin among the cherry trees, it is especially popular to visit during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The most convenient way to get to the memorial is by taking the Metrorail. The two closest Metro stops are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, both on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines. If traveling by bus, take DC Circulator’s National Mall route or ride Metrobus routes 32, 34 or 36. If driving, visitor parking is available on Ohio Drive, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Handicapped parking spaces are set aside at locations on West Basin Drive in front of the memorial. Note that street parking is often limited in DC.
Have a question? National Park Service Rangers are on hand to assist visitors daily from 9:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. and provide interpretive programs throughout the day and upon request.
Did you know there are two FDR memorials?
President Roosevelt guided the United States through the Great Depression and World War II during four terms as president, so it’s only fitting that he be honored with a memorial on the National Mall. However, this was not his first memorial constructed in the District. 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 the memorial’s present day location for a much larger tribute.
What does all the water represent?
By now you have learned that the four outdoor “rooms” are symbolic of Roosevelt’s four terms as president and what the statues represent, but what about all of the waterfalls and fountains?
There are many water features, all with their own meaning. There’s the water feature comprised of one large drop, which depicts the crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression; multiple stair-like drops are akin to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project; there are chaotic falls at varying angles signifying World War II; and a still pool for Roosevelt's death.
The water and more than seven acres of space to explore at the FDR Memorial provide for an educational and introspective experience you’re not soon to forget.
Check out the rest of monuments and memorials on the National Mall!