“General Eisenhower won the peace in World War II, and President Eisenhower secured the peace,” architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners told members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission at a meeting Thursday.
Webb said the alterations also include moving a statue of Eisenhower as a young adult from a central position in the park to a spot behind the metal tapestries near one of the southern entrances. Text of Eisenhower’s 1945 “Homecoming Speech” (which includes the famous line “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene”) will be etched on a wall near the statue. The new design must be reviewed by the federal agencies that approved the previous version last year.
Former secretary of state James Baker III, a member of the commission’s advisory committee, brokered an agreement between the family and the commission in September. Congress had rejected requests for funding because of the family’s opposition.
After the meeting, Susan Eisenhower praised the design’s change and its focus on the peace that was won at that pivotal battle. “Had we failed at Normandy, it would have been a major setback for the war, and for the United States, ” she said.
The revision is the latest development in a tumultuous effort to gain approval for the design of a parklike memorial on a four-acre site along Independence Avenue between the National Air and Space Museum and the Department of Education. The Normandy coastline will be pictured on the metal tapestry lining the southern edge of the site. Two columns mark its northern corners, and the park’s core features two limestone blocks with bronze statues. One block commemorates Eisenhower’s success as a World War II general, the other his two terms as president.
The cost for the memorial will be about $150 million, a commission spokeswoman said.
Commission Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) described the compromise as a significant step in the project’s 15-year journey. Authorized by Congress in 1999, the commission met for the first time in 2001; it selected the Independence Avenue site in 2005 and unveiled Gehry’s original design in 2010.
“This is a great step forward,” said Roberts, who praised Gehry and Webb for their perseverance. “The groundbreaking is in sight. Hopefully we will have the memorial in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day [in 2019].”
The commission has received about $47 million in federal funds, including some for design and construction; it has raised $8 million in private donations. Earlier this fall, Roberts said he would ask Congress to waive the requirement that memorials have all construction money on hand before work can begin.