How Other Memorials Have Been Greeted

Roundup: Talking About History

Maria Puente, in USA Today, puttng into perspective the many criticisms of the new WW II memorial on the Mall (May 20, 2004):

Memorial building in America is a tendentious business. "Never was a memorial yet erected that was not subject to criticism," said Rep. John Boylan, D-N.Y. And that was in 1937. Here's what happened when some of America's most important memorials were proposed:

Washington Monument (1884) Architect Robert Mills

Construction began in 1848 but stopped for 20 years when funding ran out and the Civil War began. Also, a brouhaha erupted when a stone donated by Pope Pius IX was stolen by members of an anti-Catholic political party. The monument was finally completed almost 30 years after the architect's death.

540,000 visitors a year

Lincoln Memorial (1922) Architect Henry Bacon

Southern opponents of Lincoln didn't want it built at all. Lincoln supporters called the architecture "pompous" and disparaged the site on the Mall, at the time a swamp, as "unworthy" of the savior of the Union.

3.2 million visitors a year

Jefferson Memorial (1943) Architect John Russell Pope

It incited the angriest debate to that point in American architecture between historicists and modernists, who believed historical design lacked relevance. Some critics feared the design based on the Roman Pantheon would compete with the Lincoln Memorial. President Roosevelt had to intervene to get it built.

300,000 visitors a year

Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1981) Architect Maya Lin

Building the wall was almost as divisive as the war, both because of the times and the abstract V-shaped design; even the architect's Chinese-American heritage was attacked. Tom Carhart, a former Army platoon leader, called it a "degrading ditch." "Orwellian glop" wrote National Review magazine.

2.8 million visitors a year

Korean War Veterans Memorial (1995) Cooper-Lecky Architects of Washington

The criticism focused on a black granite wall etched with soldiers' faces. "The wall tugs the heartstrings, for sure, but it's also a bit obvious, a bit much," wrote Benjamin Forgey in The Washington Post. "It's a design disaster," said Carole Blair, professor at University of California-Davis.

2.4 million visitors a year

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (1997) Architect Lawrence Halprin

A 1960 proposal featuring granite slabs standing on edge was dubbed "instant Stonehenge." The finished monument was denounced by the disabled because a statue didn't show enough of FDR's wheelchair.

2 million visitors a year

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