D.C. memorial to World War I reopens

November 10, 2011

Eighty years after it was dedicated in front of President Herbert Hoover and World War I hero Army Gen. John J. Pershing, the once dilapidated and neglected D.C. War Memorial reopened Thursday after a months-long restoration.

The elegant, columned, 47-foot-tall domed structure just west of the World War II Memorial honors the 20,000 Washington residents who served in World War I, and the 499 who died during the 1914-1918 conflict.

Paid for by local residents, it is the only District memorial on the Mall, although it is now cared for by the National Park Service.

The $3.6 million restoration came after the memorial had crumbled into disrepair over the years. Its marble was cracked and discolored, and its landscape was overgrown with shrubs and trees.

“For too many years it was a lonely orphan on this part of the Mall,” Edwin L. Fountain, vice president of the World War I Memorial Foundation, told an audience at Thursday’s reopening ceremony. “It was a forgotten memorial to a forgotten war.”

But through the efforts of, among others, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Fountain’s foundation and the Trust for the National Mall, money for repairs was made available through federal stimulus funding.

The memorial’s stone was cleaned and damage fixed. The landscape and fieldstone walkways were restored. And the memorial’s long-vanished metal floor medallion was replaced with a bronze replica.

“Look at the landscape, and how open it feels, how shiny and bright it looks, ” said Caroline L. Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall.

Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful.”

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Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.
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