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DC: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Seen War
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Image by wallyg
"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded . . . I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed . . . I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, dedicated on May 2, 1997, is spread out over 7.5 elaborate landscaped acre along the Cherry Tree Walk on the Western edge of the Tidal Basin as part of the National Mall. Designed by Lawrence Halprin, it traces 12 years of the history of the United States through a sequence of four outdoor gallery rooms–one for each of FDR’s terms of office– defined by walls of red South Dakota granite.

The idea for a memorial originated in 1946. In 1955, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Commission was established by Congress. The current plot of land was secured in 1959 with design competitions following in 1960 and 1966. It wasn’t until 1978 that the committee finally approved a design by Halprin and authorized construction in 1982. Ground was broken in September of 1991.

Running water is an important physical and metaphoric component of the memorial. Each of the four "rooms" representing Roosevelt’s respective terms in office contains a waterfall. As one moves from room to room, the waterfalls become larger and more complex, reflecting the increasing complexity of a presidency marked by the vast upheavals of economic depression and world war.

The first room introduces Roosevelt’s first term as President (1932-1936). Robert Graham’s relief sculpture depicts his first inauguration. Tom Hardy’s a bronze sculpture depicts The Presidential Seal and a Roman-American eagle. In this room, the single large drop of water symbolizes the crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression.

The second room, Social Policy, details Roosevelt’s second term from 1936-1940 and the impact of the New Deal, which created social security, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, welfare, and fair labor standards. Three sculptural groups by George Segal–Breadline, The Rural Couple, and The Fireside Chat–represent Americans during the Great Depression. The wall opens to an open area with five tall pillars and a large mural, created by Robert Graham, representing the New Deal. The five-panelled mural is a collage of various scenes and objects, including initials, faces, and hands; the images on the mural are inverted on the five columns. In this room, the multiple stairstep drops symbolize the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project.

The third room, The War Years, covering the period from 1940-1944 and World War II, explodes to a destructive presence, as giant granite blocks line the path, and a chaotic waterfall rushes down. On the wall, one of 21 inscriptions carved by John Benson, is Roosevelt’s famous "I have seen war" quote. To the left of the waterfall sits a Neil Estern’s 10-foot tall sculpture of Roosevelt, seated in a dining room chair with roller casters and wearing a floor-length cape, with his dog Fala seated nearby.

The fourth room, Seeds of Peace, covers the period from 1945 to 1955, including Rosevelt’s final term, his passing and beyond. It includes Leonard Baskin’s Funeral Relief and Neil Estern’s sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt, standing next to the United Nations emblem. In this room, the still pool represents Roosevelt’s death.

In the forecourt is Robert Graham’s life-size bronze portrait statue of Roosevelt, seated in a wheel chair, facing the Washington Monument. This statue was added in January, 2001, after advocates objected to Estern’s depiction which concealed Roosevelt’s disability. Though Roosevelt suffered from paralysis as a result of polio, he went through great pains to hide his ailment from the public.

National Register #01000271 (1997)

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