Monday, 15 July 2013

Washington's Memorials

The Lincoln Memorial is more dramatic lit up at night and less people too!
To say there are a lot of memorials in the United States' capital is an understatement. Everywhere you look in Washington there's some kind of memorial, particularly to American presidents and commemorating major events. We checked out a few of the famous ones.

The Washington Monument being repaired
On our first night in DC we headed to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which is near the Lincoln Memorial. It was already after dinner so it was dark, but in a way it makes the visit even more dramatic.

A large V-shape, both ends start off with a small triangular piece of black granite that quickly grows into large slabs taller than a person, towering over you, each covered in names. They seem to be organized by year, perhaps to make it easier for loved ones to find the names of victims.

The feeling is completely overwhelming -- to see so many names -- 58,286 of them -- as you walk by them. Some people leave behind small American flags, flowers and notes. During the time we visited, a park ranger carried a small cardboard box as he picked up the items left behind.

The names of the soldiers who died in Vietnam on granite
He told one visitor that they collect lots of flags (which they distribute to people later), notes, sometimes money (which he doesn't understand why), notes, and one time even found human remains (ashes) which they respectfully disposed of.

The collecting of these items is usually done in the evening so that visitors don't see it and the memorial is kept relatively clean.

We next headed to the Lincoln Memorial, which seemed like a beacon, lit up and beckoning people to visit. When you walk up the large steps of the temple, it's humbling to see the giant status of the 16th president.

Soldiers depicted in action during the Korean War
Inside are also housed some of his writings on the walls, mostly talking about freedom and democracy. What's great about going in the evening is that there are fewer people there making it easier to take photographs; but it's even more dramatic at night which makes it even better.

Where he sits he looks out onto the Washington Monument and beyond that Capitol Hill.

After visiting Lincoln, we made a visit to the Korean War Veterans Memorial nearby, where there are statues of soldiers in action, wearing helmets and ponchos with weapons in hand. It's kind of scary seeing them lit up at night, their faces filled with fear.

Thomas Jefferson standing tall
The memorial also recognizes other countries that participated in the Korean War including Canada and Belgium.

On our final day in Washington, we first went to see the Jefferson Memorial, which is located by the Potomac River, making it a beautiful photography opportunity. And like the Lincoln Memorial, visitors pay homage to Thomas Jefferson, his large dark statue housed in side the round temple-like structure. He is surrounded by his words, carved into the walls for posterity.

Then you can do a short walk around the river where you will come across the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It's quite large, in that it's spread out horizontally in various sections. Here you can see the progression of sound bites thanks to the media, as his words are much shorter and to the point.

Approaching it from the Jefferson Memorial, you encounter a statue of his wife Eleanor first, who was the first US representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, helping to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Scottish terrier Fala with Frankling Delano Roosevelt
In between the sections are lots of rock formations and waterfalls before we see a large bronze statue of Roosevelt in a chair wearing a cloak with his dog Fala by his side. There was some controversy over whether he should be portrayed in a wheelchair to show his disability because this was not portrayed during his time, but disability-rights activists wanted to have an accurate portrayal of him.

Finally at the end of the walk we come to the latest addition -- the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. It's very large -- 30ft tall where he is carved out of white stone. Again there was some controversy over the statue being executed by mainland Chinese artist Lei Yixin, because human rights activist Harry Wu pointed out Lei had done a statue of Mao Zedong.

Martin Luther King Jr emerges from the rock
But the organizers said Lei was chosen on artistic ability by a mostly African-American design team.

Some claim King's likeness in the statue makes him look stern, but I don't think so. He has become a must photograph for many African-Americans who visit the site, whereas Chinese ones take pictures there because of the artist.

Afterwards we got into a cab to head to the White House and our taxi driver remarked, "Why is it that Jefferson is black and Martin Luther King Jr is white?"

Interesting observation...


  1. You sure visited a lot of memorials while in D.C. -- including a number I didn't even know exist (namely those for FDR and the Korean War Veterans)! :O

    Really like your night shots. :)

    1. HI YTSL!

      Yeah my parents and brother took me to these ones and I suggested the Martin Luther King Jr one since I knew it was recently installed... I like the one of FDR and his dog. Nice touch, though I now read that his dog Fala was a star in his own right!