The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington, D.C. dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and the third President of the United States. The neoclassical building was designed by the architect John Russell Pope and built by the Philadelphia contractor John McShain. Construction of the building began in 1939 and was completed in 1943. The bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947.

Composed of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns, and a shallow dome, the building is open to the elements. Pope made references to the Roman Pantheon and Jefferson’s own design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. It is situated in West Potomac Park, on the shore of the Tidal Basin of the Potomac River. The Jefferson Memorial, and the White House located directly north, form one of the main anchor points in the area of the National Mall in D.C.

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Washington Monument, just east of the axis on the national Mall, was intended to be located at the intersection of the White House and the site for the Jefferson Memorial to the south, but soft swampy ground which defied 19th century engineering required it be sited to the east.

The interior of the memorial has a 19-foot (5.8 m) tall, 10,000 lb (4336 kg) bronze statue of Jefferson by sculptor Rudulph Evans showing Jefferson looking out toward the White House, where he once lived. This statue was added four years after the dedication. Most prominent are the words which are inscribed in a frieze below the dome:

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

This sentence is taken from a September 23, 1800, letter by Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush wherein he defends the constitutional refusal to recognize a state religion. On the panel of the southwest interior wall are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We…solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Operating Hours & Seasons

The public may visit the Thomas Jefferson Memorial 24 hours a day. However Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 A.M. to 11:30 P.M. daily and to provide interpretive programs every hour on the hour from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

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