Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
FDR Memorial sign in 2008
Map showing the location of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Map showing the location of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
LocationWashington, D.C., United States
Coordinates38°53′2″N 77°2′40″W / 38.88389°N 77.04444°W / 38.88389; -77.04444
Area7.50 acres (3.04 ha)
EstablishedMay 2, 1997
Visitors3,288,299 (in 2018)
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteFranklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington D.C., dedicated to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, and to the era he represents. The memorial is one of two in Washington honoring Roosevelt.

Dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton, the national memorial, spread over 7.5 acres (3.0 ha) adjacent to the southwest side of the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk in West Potomac Park, traces 12 years of the history of the United States through a sequence of four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR's terms of office.[1] Sculptures inspired by photographs depict the 32nd president alongside his dog Fala.

Other sculptures depict scenes from the Great Depression, such as listening to a fireside chat on the radio and waiting in a bread line. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing before the United Nations emblem honors her work with the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the only presidential memorial to depict a First Lady.[2]

Considering Roosevelt's disability, the memorial's designers intended to create a memorial that would be accessible to those with various physical impairments. Among other features, the memorial includes an area with tactile reliefs with braille writing for people who are blind. However, the memorial faced serious criticism from disabled activists. Vision-impaired visitors complained that the braille dots were improperly spaced and that some of the braille and reliefs were mounted eight feet off of the ground, placing it above the reach of most people.[3]

Design and features

"I hate war." From FDR's 1936 Speech
Small manmade waterfalls located in the memorial

The memorial's design and development represents the capstone of a distinguished career for the memorial's designer, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin[4] partly because Halprin had fond memories of Roosevelt, and partly because of the sheer difficulty of the task.[5]

Halprin won the competition for the Memorial's design in 1974. However, Congress did not appropriate the funds to move beyond this conceptual stage for more than 20 years.[4] Halprin collaborated with architect Robert Marquis who designed the visitor center in the winning plans.[6]

The memorial's design concept of four outdoor "rooms" and gardens is animated by water, stone, and sculpture.[5] The national memorial now includes sculptures and works by Leonard Baskin, Neil Estern, Robert Graham, Tom Hardy, and George Segal.

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.

Tour guides describe the symbolism of the five main water areas as:

The architecture critic of the Washington Post stated that the memorial was designed "to give people as many options as possible to go this way or that, to reverse directions, to pause, to start over, to be alone, to meet others, and to experience as many different sights, smells and sounds as the site permits."[5]

When the memorial first opened, people were encouraged to wade into the fountains and waterfalls. However, within a matter of days, the National Park Service (NPS), which operates the Memorial, prohibited people from entering the water due to fear of accidents.

The site is a component of the NPS's National Mall and Memorial Parks administrative unit. As a historic area that the NPS manages, the memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on the date of its establishment, May 2, 1997.[7]

Wheelchair depiction

The statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt stirred controversy over the issue of his disability. Designers decided against plans to have FDR shown in a wheelchair. Instead, the statue depicts the president in a chair with a cloak obscuring the chair, showing him as he appeared to the public during his life. Roosevelt's reliance on a wheelchair was not publicized during his life, as there was a stigma of weakness and instability associated with any disability.[8] However, historians and some disability-rights advocates wanted his disability to be shown for historical accuracy and to tell the story of what they believed to be the source of his strength.[9] Other disability advocates,[who?] while not necessarily against showing him in a wheelchair, were wary of protests about the memorial that leaned toward making Roosevelt a hero because of his disability.[citation needed]

The sculptor added casters to the back of the chair in deference to advocates, making it a symbolic "wheelchair". The casters are only visible behind the statue.[citation needed]

The National Organization on Disability, headed by the efforts of Alan Reich, raised US$1.65 million over two years to fund the addition of another statue that clearly showed the president in a wheelchair. In January 2001, the additional statue was placed near the memorial entrance showing FDR seated in a wheelchair much like the one he actually used. The memorial's designer construed the wheelchair controversy as evidence of success: "The most important thing about designing is to generate creativity in others, and to be inclusive – to include the needs and experiences of people interacting with the environment, and to let them be part of its creation."[4]


Original Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The original FDR Memorial near the corner of 9th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW (2009)
Plaque at the edge of the sidewalk in front of the original FDR Memorial (2007)

During a conversation that he had with Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said that if he were to have a monument in Washington, it should be in front of the National Archives and should be no larger than his desk. A 3-foot (0.9 m) tall, 7-foot (2.1 m) long, 4-foot (1.2 m) wide block of white marble was subsequently dedicated in 1965 as his memorial near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, within a lawn in front of the National Archives Building.[10] The engraved words on the memorial state: "In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1882–1945".[11]

A bronze plaque at the edge of the sidewalk in front of the memorial states:

In September 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called his friend, Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter, to the White House and asked the Justice to remember the wish he then expressed:

If any memorial is erected to me, I know exactly what I should like it to be. I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this (putting his hand on his desk) and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building. I don't care what it is made of, whether limestone or granite or whatnot, but I want it plain without any ornamentation, with the simple carving, "In Memory of ____".

A small group of living associates of the President, on April 12, 1965, the twentieth anniversary of his death, fulfilled his wish by providing and dedicating this modest memorial.[11][12]

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ "District of Columbia: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial". The National Parks: Index 2001–2003. Washington, D.C: United States Department of the Interior: National Park Service. 2001. p. 34 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "The White House / The National Archives". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  3. ^ Vick, Karl (25 May 1997). "New FDR Statue's Braille Shows a Form of Blindness". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Sullivan, Patricia. "Lawrence Halprin, 93; Urban projects won wide acclaim for American landscape architect," Washington Post. October 28, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas. "Lawrence Halprin, Landscape Architect, Dies at 93," New York Times. October 28, 2003.
  6. ^ Kitty Luce; Jessie Durant, eds. (2012). "Robert B. Marquis Collection, c. 1947, 1953-1994" (PDF). Online Archive of California. University of California, Berkeley. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-12-01. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  7. ^ (1) "Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial". National Register of Historic Places: Digital Archive on NPGallery. United States Department of the Interior: National Park Service. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
    (2) Bobeczko, Laura L.; Robinson, Judith H. (July 31, 1998). "East and West Potomac Parks Historic District: Revised National Register of Historic Places Nomination" (PDF). Department of the Interior: National Park Service. pp. Section 7, pp. 30–33 (Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  8. ^ "Fdr: Rolling In His Grave???". Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  9. ^ Mutchler, Meghan (10 April 1995). "Roosevelt's Disability An Issue At Memorial". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  10. ^ (1) Kirby, Doug; Smith, Ken; Wilkins, Mike (1996). "Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Block: Washington, D.C." Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
    (2) Coordinates of the original Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial near the National Archives Building: 38°53′37″N 77°01′25″W / 38.8934837°N 77.0236123°W / 38.8934837; -77.0236123 (Original Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial)
  11. ^ a b W., Kevin (ed.). "'In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: 1882–1945' marker". The Historical Marker Database. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  12. ^ Coordinates of plaque at the edge of the sidewalk in front of the original Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial near the National Archives Building: 38°53′37″N 77°01′25″W / 38.893561°N 77.023579°W / 38.893561; -77.023579 (Plaque in front of original Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial)