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Overhaul of the Mall, monuments has begun

A cross with a soldier's name is tucked in a fence near the D.C. War Memorial, which needs cleaning, new landscaping and drainage work.
A cross with a soldier's name is tucked in a fence near the D.C. War Memorial, which needs cleaning, new landscaping and drainage work. (Bill O'leary)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It was modeled after the grand canals at Versailles and Fontainebleau, created to enhance two presidential monuments, and designed to invite repose amid Washington's most famous landscape.

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Since then, it's been skated on, fished in and waded through. Civil rights marchers cooled their weary feet in it. War protesters skinny-dipped in it. A man bent on suicide once drove a truck into it, although it's less than a yard deep.

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which for generations has mirrored the national face of protest and celebration, is now often foul and unsightly. And eight decades after its construction, the famed landmark is finally being replaced.

The project is one of several underway that together make up a multimillion-dollar overhaul, with substantial federal funding, that aims to spruce up the Mall and burnish the city's monumental core after years of neglect and overuse.

"I remember . . . being on the Mall and seeing how downtrodden it was, and how beat up the turf was and how dirty the reflecting pool was," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who can see the Mall from his office windows, said last week.

Now, he said, "I see a lot of visible projects that demonstrate significant progress."

The Interior Department oversees the National Park Service, which is responsible for the Mall and its environs.

Work has also begun on the repair of the Mall's 1931 D.C. War Memorial and the National Park Service's century-old Sherman equestrian statue, outside the Treasury building.

And it continues on the Jefferson Memorial sea wall and the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, both on the Tidal Basin.

The projects, for now, have large portions of the "nation's front yard" dug up, sealed off behind chain-link fences and wooden barriers, and populated with construction trailers and work cranes.

Fenced in and nearly dry

The 18-month, $30.7 million project on the historic reflecting pool project began in November.

The 2,128-foot-long pool is fenced off and has been emptied of most of its 6.5 million gallons of water. A walkway on its south side remains open to the public.


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