Don Hawkins made a compelling case that the Banneker Park memorial site in the District is perfect for the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture [letters, Nov. 12]. What he did not mention is that whatever is built on that site could rival the Lincoln Memorial in physical prominence and symbolic power.

The site now seems like a backwater, a dead end at the south end of L'Enfant Plaza, separated from the city by the Southwest Freeway. But it doesn't take much imagination to see that that location and all of Southwest could be transformed in coming years.

The National Children's Museum plans to build a state-of-the-art museum on L'Enfant Plaza, and the Department of Transportation and the National Park Service have been developing plans for improvements to the plaza for several years. Maine Avenue is slated for development as part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The Banneker site is directly aligned with, and just a short walk from, the Smithsonian Castle.

Add to that the suggestion by the National Mall Third Century Initiative to connect the Banneker Overlook by pedestrian bridge to the Maine Avenue waterfront and East Potomac Park as part of an expansion of the National Mall.

During the last expansion of the Mall a century ago, the McMillan Commission proposed locating the Lincoln Memorial on fill dredged from the Potomac by the Army Corps of Engineers. It seemed like an outrageous idea. Yet in the 20th century the Lincoln Memorial became the preferred place for public gatherings and demonstrations.

The same thing can happen at the Banneker site. All it takes is vision.



National Mall Third Century Initiative

National Coalition to Save Our Mall


Preservationist Ron McBee at Banneker Park near L'Enfant Plaza, a proposed site for the Museum of African American History and Culture.