A memorial plaza honoring former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as supreme Allied commander during World War II, is planned for a spot near the Mall.
One federal panel, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, has approved a four-acre site on the southwest corner of Independence and Maryland avenues SW. The parcel faces the south entrance of the National Air and Space Museum and has a view of the Capitol.
"We want to tell the Eisenhower story in the broadest sense. It's an interesting, romantic American story. We want to tell the Eisenhower story in the context of the American story," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel, executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, established in 1999 to develop a memorial for the 34th president.
The Nov. 8 action by the Memorial Advisory Commission is only one step in a long review process. The location also must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts, then submitted to Congress and the White House. The process could take years. The Eisenhower commission will now produce a design, estimate costs and begin to raise money.
"This is a work-in-progress and we like the plaza memorial concept, like the FDR Memorial and the World War II Memorial," Reddel said. "In our case, it is appropriate for an urban setting and has to harmonize with what is there." Daniel Feil, an architect who managed the Reagan National Airport expansion, is the commission's executive architect.
There has been controversy about memorials around the Mall. Many groups are vying to place structures on the dwindling supply of available land. The location at Independence and Maryland avenues was cited by the National Capital Planning Commission as a suitable site for a memorial. "The Capitol was important to Eisenhower. His respect for the authority of Congress was exceptional," Reddel said. "We want the memorial to be publicly accessible. If you take the millions of visitors at the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian and we could get 10 percent of those visitors, we would have 600,000 people a year."
Born in Texas but raised in Abilene, Kan., Eisenhower was a West Point graduate who became a five-star Army general. He commanded the Allied forces in Europe, led the D-day invasion in June 1944 and later was commander of NATO. Most people know that part of Eisenhower's history, Reddel said.
His presidency, from 1953 to 1961, is not as well publicized. His role as a peacemaker, his diplomatic record and his faith in democracy are a few of the broad themes being considered by the planners. Other highlights of Eisenhower's administration likely to be commemorated: creation of the interstate highway system; passage of the first two Civil Rights Acts, in 1957 and 1960; the addition of two states, Alaska and Hawaii; adding 10 million Americans to the Social Security rolls; and the creation of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
"He believed America needed to be modernized in transportation, aviation and space," Reddel said. As materials become declassified and historians take a second look at Eisenhower, Reddel said the memorial will consider Eisenhower's record "warts and all."
"He made mistakes, but we think the contributions and strengths outweighed the weaknesses," he said. "We think we can address with confidence what they were."
The plaza would be steps away from the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency created under Eisenhower in 1958. Eisenhower also created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which provided many of the artifacts in the Air and Space Museum.
The former president in 1965.