The long-simmering debate about the design for a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower continues with the release of a letter signed by the 34th President’s son, John S. D. Eisenhower. Dated Oct. 18, and released on the website of Eisenhower granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, the letter is addressed to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, vice chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. The letter raises concerns about architect Frank Gehry’s design for the memorial, calling it “too extravagant.”
It also veers off into a dispute with the memorial commission’s chairman Rocco Siciliano, who in an earlier letter (cited by the Associated Press) defended the Gehry design, arguing, “I am one person who feels competent to say that he believes President Eisenhower would be most pleased as to what the present commissioners have unanimously accepted.”
In the latest missive, John S.D. Eisenhower, 90, fires back at Siciliano, saying “I am astonished by Rocco Siciliano’s claim that his service in the White House gives him an unusual perspective on how my father would view this design.” Eisenhower continues, “Besides being Ike’s son…I would not make a claim like Mr. Siciliano’s.”
The Eisenhower Family has raised various and sometimes conflicting objections to the Gehry design, claiming it inadequately tells the story of Eisenhower’s legacy as president and military leader. The most recent letter argues for a more scaled back memorial that tells a simpler story, with only a statue and some green space. Gehry’s design calls for a statue, two carved representations of Eisenhower’s accomplishments, with metal tapestries surrounding the square, on Independence Avenue S.W. between Fourth and Sixth Streets.
Chris Kelley Cimko, a spokeswoman for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, said that the Commission “Respects the views of the family,” but she pointed out that Eisenhower grandson David Eisenhower had been a member of the Commission for a decade, during the development of the memorial and the selection of Gehry as its designer. David Eisenhower resigned from the Commission in December 2011, around the same time that his sisters (including Susan and Anne Eisenhower) began a concerted campaign against the Gehry design.