Tag Archives: National Mall

October 2018 – Triumph & Tragedy

There were just three new cancellations this month:

Flight 93 National Memorial | Tower of Voices

National Capital Parks: Titanic Memorial | Washington, DC

Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site: George Gordon Meade Memorial | Washington, DC

All three of this month’s cancellations relate to memorials and national memorials – a favorite topic of Parkasaurus.

A crane installs chimes on the Tower of Voices at Flight 93 National Memorial. Photo credit: NPS.gov

Normally, the National Park Service recommends waiting several years before designating a National Memorial for contemporary events.  However, that waiting period was understandably waived in the case of commemorating the dramatic events surround United Flight 93 of September 11, 2001.  The Flight 93 National Memorial was designated around the site where the passengers of Flight 93 took matters into their own hands, and brought down their hi-jacked before it could be used as a weapon – likely against the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.  The Tower of Voices is the final piece of the memorial.   The 93-foot tall tower containing 40 wind chimes is a moving tribute to the 40 passengers who gave their lives on Flight 93.

If you haven’t been to Flight 93 National Memorial, or if you haven’t been recently, the completion of the Tower of Voices certainly makes for a compelling reason to make an American pilgrimage to the site.  Parkasaurus hasn’t been since 2011, when our family visited with our then-infant first child around the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  We made sure to get our Passport cancellation with the iconic date forever associated with the site on it:

That cancellation remains one of the favorites in my collection.  For all of us who lived through that day and carry the memories of those events, that date carries a special significance.

The site back then was still largely undeveloped – but there were still many Americans visiting from all different backgrounds and walks of life.   At the time, the National Park Service only had a temporary visitor center – but even then, the stories of the participants in the events of Flight 93 that the National Park Service had collected were still incredibly moving.  That will surely only moreso be the case now that the site has largely finished.

With the recent burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France (admittedly several months after I initially started writing, but alas, not completing, this post) the dinner table conversation in the Parkasaurus family with our now-eight-year-old and his younger siblings turned to the concept of “remember where you were when” events.  Surprisingly, it was actually our eight year old who brought that topic up.  That naturally led to Mrs. Parkasaurus and I sharing our experiences of 9/11 with our children for the first time. Both of us were living in the Washington, DC, area at the time, albeit without yet knowing of each other.  I’m not sure just yet when we will be ready to share the emotional impact of visiting this site with our children, but it will certainly be an impactful opportunity to talk with our children about bravery, and what to do when ordinary people are confronted with extraordinary circumstances in the history of their country.

The General George Gordon Meade Memorial is one of the most striking statues in Washington, DC. Photo from 2015.The next memorial this month concerns history-changing events that are now longer in living memory.  Union Civil War General George Gordon Meade is best known for his successful leadership at the Battle of Gettysburg some 100 miles to the east and some 140 years earlier.  Most historians recognize the three-day Battle of Gettysburg as the turning point of the Civil War in favor of an ultimate Union Victory.  The striking memorial, located in Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in Washington, DC, was dedicated in 1927.  In 2013, the Meade Memorial was featured on the annual stickers issued by Eastern National each year for the Passport Program.  The Meade Memorial was the sticker that year for the National Capital Region, and it marked the 150th Anniversary that year of the Battle of Gettysburg.  For the last 5 years, the Meade Memorial has been the only site featured on an annual sticker by Eastern National, but without its own passport cancellation – a situation that’s now been rectified with this month’s addition.  The Meade Memorial is often over-looked in the shadow of the grand memorials of Washington, DC, just as Meade himself is often overlooked on the list of the now larger-than-life characters that usually dominate historical narratives of the Civil War, like Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.  Despite the relative unfamiliarity of George Gordon Meade’s name in popular history, both his role in changing the course of the Civil War and also the unique design of this memorial with the gold wreath and  stone carving make it worth checking out on your next journey along Pennsylvania Avenue through the Nation’s Capital.

The landscape of the Titanic Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo from 2010

Finally, the Titanic Memorial has long been one of my favorite off-the-beaten path locations in Washington, DC.   Located at the end of P Street Southwest in Washington, few tourists venture to visit the site, located some 1.2 miles south of the National Mall – despite the national sensation created by the famed James Cameron movie.  In addition to its location, however, it perhaps is also often overlooked because of the story behind the memorial itself.   Although the memorial was not erected until 1931, the impetus for the memorial began in the years immediately after the 1912 sinking.   The striking inscription on the memorial says that it was erected by “the women of America” and is dedicated not to the victims of the sinking in general, but rather, is dedicated specifically to “To the brave men who perished in the wreck of the Titanic – April 15 1912. They gave their lives that women and children might be saved.”

The building of this memorial was largely driven by anti-suffragettes, women who were actually opposed to the work of Alice Paul, which is now commemorated at Belmont-Paul National Monument.   The story is admittedly a bit more complicated than that, as the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote was ratified in 1920, and the Titanic Memorial was not completed until eleven years later.

Nevertheless, the inscription that remains on the memorial’ still bears testament to that era.  The thinking behind these anti-suffragettes was that if women were to be granted full legal equality with men that there might be unintended consequences of women losing some of the privileges that they did enjoy in early 20th Century society – such as priority access to lifeboats.   Nowadays, it seems almost unthinkable that there might have been women who opposed passage of the 19th Amendment granting them the right to vote in exchange for such “privileges,” but our past is a complicated past.   Nevertheless, the Titanic Memorial in Washington, DC is perhaps the finest example of how a memorial may be intended to commemorate a particularly person or historical event, but in fact, may end up telling us just as much about the people who created the memorial as the persons or events commemorated by the memorial itself.  This makes the Titanic Memorial an outstanding place to visit, nut just to get away from the crowds and hustle and bustle of the National Mall, but also to reflect on how the memorials we create today will outlast us in future generations.

Final Shot: The memorial bell at Flight 93 National Memorial from a time when the Memorial was still largely undeveloped. Photo from 2010.
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Sidebars on National Memorials

This post is a sidebar to my main post on “When Is a National Memorial a National Park?” with some interesting side notes and related facts that didn’t fit into the main post.

Sidebar #1

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial bookends the National Mall on the east end. Although it has a Passport stamp, it is not one of the memorials officially recognized as a national memorial. Photo from 2015.
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial bookends the National Mall on the east end. Although it has a Passport stamp, it is not one of the memorials officially recognized as a national memorial. Photo from 2015.

It should be noted that there are many more memorials in the Washington, DC area, almost all of which are part of the U.S. National Park System through the National Capital Parks catchall unit.  Many of these memorials even have their own Passport cancellations, namely the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, the George Mason Memorial,  the Francis Scott Key Memorial, the John Ericsson Memorial, the John Paul Jones Memorial,  the District of Columbia World War Memorial,  the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the African-American Civil War Memorial, and the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II.  Also included in this group are the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the Saipan American Memorial Affiliated Area in the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Cape Henry Memorial, where a French fleet cut off the British army’s escape from Yorktown during the American Revolution, at Colonial National Historical Park.  Each of these memorials is considered to be a Congressionally-authorized commemorative work, of which there are many others, particularly in Washington, DC – but they do not rise to the level of being national memorials.

Sidebar #2

This reconstruction of a fort built by Lewis & Clark on the Pacific Coast was original designated as Fort Clatsop National Memorial, before being incorporated into an expanded and redesignated Lewis & Clark National Historical Park in 2004 during the expedition's bicentennial celebration.
This reconstruction of a fort built by Lewis & Clark on the Pacific Coast was original designated as Fort Clatsop National Memorial.  Photo from 2004.

Two national parks were originally designated as national memorials, but have since been renamed.  The present-day Lewis & Clark National Historical Park incorporated the area originally-designated as Fort Clatsop National Memorial in Oregon.  The original designation was made because the Fort Clatsop at the center of the park was a reconstruction of the fort built by the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to spend the winter near the Pacific Ocean in 1805-1806.

The present-day Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota was originally established as Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, and so is no longer a national memorial.

Sidebar #3

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is also a memorial to the many historical events that happened there.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is also a memorial to the many historical events that happened there. Photo from 2015.

It is also worth noting that a handfull of national monuments dedicated to historical resources and one national historical park are actually described by Congress in their authorizing legislation as national memorials.  However, they do not seem to be listed anywhere else as national memorials, so I am not including them in the overall count, but I will nonetheless mention them here:

In addition to those, there are the George Washington Memorial Parkway in northern Virginia and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway connecting Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming.  Neither appears to be considered an official national memorial either – although if you did, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. would join Robert L. Kohnstamm as the only conservationists with national memorials dedicated to them.

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Extraordinary Outdoor Art Exhibit: Out of Many, One

The National Park Service has approved a truly extraodinary outdoor art exhibit in Washington, DC along the south side of the Reflecting Pool in what is formally known as West Potomac Park*.   Cuban-American Artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada took dozens of photographs of ordinary people in Washington, DC and used those photographs to create a composite image. That composite image was then used as the template for the landscaped image installed by the Reflecting Pool.  Incredibly, satellite navigation is used to ensure that the lines are precisely drawn.

See this video for more on how it was built.

The website DesignBoom.com has several great photographs of the completed work of art.  You will want to check it out as the image really is striking.  Also included at the link are photographs of how the work appears at ground level, showing how the visual image that appears from a distance is created.

Finally, the Washington Post has an excellent infographic on the installation, including photographs of a similar installation that Rodriguez-Garada did in Northern Ireland.

“Out of Many, One” will be in place throughout the month of October.  After the end of its run, the sand and dirt will be tilled back into the soil.   A visit to the mounmental core of Washington, DC is always a special experience.   For the next month, visitors will get an extra dose of the extraordinary.

* – As a little bit of National Park trivia, although this exhibition is generally referred to as being on the National Mall, technically the National Mall is legally the open greenspace between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building.  Of course, in popular usage, the National Mall now includes the entire monumental core of Washington, DC including the Washington Mounment grounds, West Potomac Park, and the area around the Tidal Basin.


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