Saturday, December 22, 2007


Bread Line, by George Segal, Sculptor, at the FDR Memorial

One of the newer memorials in Washington, D.C., is the FDR Memorial. Located just to the west/southwest of the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin, the FDR is a series of four rooms depicting each of the terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency as well as 12 of the most significant and influential years in the 20th century in American history. Beginning with the Great Depression and continuing through almost to the end of World War II, visitors work through history and see Roosevelt's career depicted in sculpture, bas reliefs, and waterfalls.

Three things are unique about this memorial. First, it was built to accomodate not only the physically able, but also the physically disabled. The memorial is accessible to people in wheelchairs, as well as those who are visually impaired. Second, when it opened in 1997, there was, ironically, nothing that depicted President Roosevelt in a wheelchair himself. Roosevelt contracted polio as a young man and wore braces and used wheelchairs throughout his adult life. The National Organization on Disability raised $1.65 million dollars to pay for the placement of an additional sculpture that shows the President in a wheelchair. It greets visitors at the entrance of the memorial. And third, when the memorial first opened, visitors were encouraged to wade through the water fountains and falls. Unfortunately, within days of opening the National Park Service had to suspend this activity because they weren't able to secure liability insurance.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 12/07


Bobbie said...

This sculpture is very powerful and denotes the years of depression very well. I had read (somewhere a long time ago)that all photos of the president in his wheel chair were censored, but I seem to remember seeing some.

I would love to see the rest of the rooms, D.C.

D.C. Confidential said...

Bobbie: I'll see what I can do. The day I took these pictures, it was sort of an add-on to some other stuff I was shooting, which just happened to be in the same area. I'll try to go back in the next few weeks and do a more extensive shoot!

Debi said...

I agree with Bobbie, I too would enjoy more pictures of this memorial series.

This installation is a wonderful approach. Too bad liability has to be an issue to prevent the full effect they intended. Nonetheless, it's a good example of what could/should be done for all Americans and visitors.

After you mentioned the visually impaired I suddenly saw this picture differently. I imagined how those sad faces must feel to the fingertips. I bet you knew that, DC!

D.C. Confidential said...

Debi: I'll see what I can do in the next couple of weeks. As for the tactile quality of this memorial, I remember the very first time I visited it, I was just going along trying to absorb it all. All of the sudden, I noticed Braille on some of the sculptures. I remember being instantly excited that this monument was accessible to everyone--not just the physically able! In all of Washington, this is the only monument that does this. I really enjoyed it that much more after making that simple discovery.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Wow. Awesome and wow again.
Love this photo and informative post. I bet you'd be great to have on a team on quiz nights! lol

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Lisa: I suck at trivia. My housemate, on the other hand, is a total pro!