Federal policy regarding the placement of memorials and monuments in Washington has come full circle. The "new" approach advocated by the Joint Task Force on Memorials, as reported by Roger K. Lewis ["Making a Monumental Change: Memorials Across the District," Real Estate, Sept. 25], is a return to the practice of the late 19th and early 20th century when memorials, including many honoring the Union military heroes, were placed in circles and squares throughout the city.

Beginning in the early 1870s, when "Boss" Shepherd was carrying out major public works improvements to secure Washington's place as the nation's capital, trees were planted and statues of men on horseback were erected in these spaces as a way of beautifying the city and improving neighborhoods. From 1876 until 1922 (when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated), the Emancipation Group statue in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill was the city's principal memorial to the martyred president.

The development of the national Mall along the lines recommended by the McMillan Commission after the turn of the century led to the placement of most memorials on it, or as nearby as possible, causing the current situation, which threatens to turn the Mall into a marble theme park. A return to the historical practice of dispersing memorials to key sites around the city will relieve monumental congestion on the Mall and help bridge the divide between federal and local Washington.

STEPHEN A. MORRIS

Washington