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Washington: A city of history, monuments and memorials

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 3/1/2013, 1:14 p.m.
Continuing on in our Washington, D.C., series, one can hardly talk about a visit to...
Washington: A city of history, monuments and memorials

Designed to honor our 16th president, the Lincoln Memorial is equally amazing. Just climbing the impressive steps offering spectacular views of the city and standing below his soaring 19-foot marble image (set high above its structural pedestal) is awe-inspiring. Inside--though it's really an open plaza except for the gift shops tucked inside both ends--of the Greek-inspired temple memorial, you'll find a series of historic murals depicting "Emancipation" and "Unification," as well as Lincoln's Gettysburg and second inaugural addresses.

Fashioned in the shape of a rotunda, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a tribute to our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence. His statue, also soaring some 19 feet tall, is encircled by many of his well-known works as well as select passages from the Declaration.

Most may not know that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is actually the city's second FDR memorial. The first, a small marble block, is situated on the grounds of the National Archives Building, standing in tribute to our 32nd president. Encompassing just over seven-acres, the second FDR memorial incorporates numerous expressive sculptures and water elements, the latter of which was an important part of Roosevelt's life since childhood.

Another of the city's most recognizable memorials is the Washington Monument honoring President George Washington. Towering a staggering 555 feet into the air, the marble structure resembling an Egyptian obelisk is an enduring D.C. symbol. Although visitors can tour the inside, the monument is temporarily closed for repairs due to the earthquake that occurred not far from there in 2011.

Humility and great gratitude are what I felt at both the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the World War II Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, honoring those who served in the Vietnam War, is, in a word, sobering. I don't think I have ever been to a public place with so many people yet could almost hear a pin drop. Whether you were born before, during or after the war, it is quite an unbelievable experience to have the ability to view, and touch, the 58,000-plus engraved names of the women and men who gave their lives in service.

Everywhere I looked, people were taking pictures of loved ones' names, outlining their names with paper and pencil, leaving mementos and/or silently shedding tears of sorrow and gratitude. If you have young children, this is a very Washington inspirational and educational way to demonstrate to them both the cost of war and the deep commitment of some to freedom. Commemorating the sacrifice--both in service and lives lost, 16 million and 400,000-plus, respectively--the World War II Memorial tells the story of the soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors, both American and with Allied forces, who fought during this historic war.

The elements of the memorial are remarkable, encompassing two architecturally masterful pavilions--the Atlantic and Pacific; a central Rainbow Pool with beautiful water features; a field of gold stars, 4,048 in all and each representing 100 American military deaths; a pillar and two wreaths (the latter symbolizing the agricultural and industrial resources offered in the war effort) for each state of the Union and U.S. Territory, arranged in alternating order around the field of gold stars for when they entered the Union; 24 bronze bas relief panels; and close to 17,000 individual granite stones. Open 24/7, the memorial is a must see.

Aaaaah! Can you tell that I just loved D.C.? It is such a historic and fascinating city with fun and exciting things to see, do and experience for visitors from all over the world.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

Resource List

  • Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov/frde
  • Lincoln Memorial: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov/linc
  • issippiMLK Jr. Memorial: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov/mlkm
  • National WWII Memorial: 202-619-7222, www.wwiimemorial.com
  • T. Jefferson Memorial: 202-485-9880, www.nps.gov/thje
  • U.S. Capitol: 202-226-8000, www.visitthecapitol.gov
  • World War II Memorial: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov
  • Washington Monument: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov/wamo/
  • White House: 202-456-1111, www.whitehouse.gov
  • Vietnam Memorial Wall: 202-426-6841, www.nps.gov/vive
  • Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitors Bureau: 202-789-7000, www.washington.org