Did you know that the Cherry blossom is an omen of good fortune and is also an emblem of love and affection? Cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of life, so before life goes any further you should take this wonderful opportunity to join Interlude for an incredible visit to our nation’s Capitol. The sights and sounds of DC are always lovelier in the spring when the vision of the cherry blossoms is at the height of brilliance. The parade is great fun and your reserved seats make for comfortable and easy access.
Having done this trip many times, I am particularly fond of the relatively new FDR Memorial. Located along the famous Cherry Tree Walk on the Western edge of the Tidal Basin near the National Mall, this is a memorial not only to FDR, but also to the era he represents. The memorial traces twelve years of American history through a sequence of four outdoor rooms-each one devoted to one of FDR’s terms of office; each defined by walls of red South Dakota granite.
Designed by Lawrence Halprin, the memorial encompasses 7.5 acres in a park-like setting and is one of his most celebrated achievements. Mr. Halprin is noted for moving beyond the confines traditionally imposed by the field of landscape architects. Mr. Halprin’s major focus, and one for which he became famous, is the participation of people in his landscapes and his people are realistic and charming. The design of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial brings together his desire to make environments through his art, emphasizing the beauty of the urban landscape and the participation and enjoyment of those who experience it. It is really quite remarkable.
The sculpture used photographs of the president, the First Lady, and even their dog Fala, to create detailed and accurate statues. A 10-foot statue shows FDR in a wheeled chair; a bas-relief depicts him riding in a car during his first inaugural. At the very beginning of the memorial in a prologue room there is a statue with FDR seated in a wheelchair much like the one he actually used. The FDR Memorial is the only presidential memorial in the city to honor a First Lady. The statue of Eleanor Roosevelt depicts her standing in front of an emblem of the United Nations, honoring her support of the organization created in 1945. I found this memorial very moving, and the sculptures are truly magnificent. Politics aside, this period in our history was significant and gives fitting tribute to a way of life we have long forgotten.
A great photo opportunity waits as you step in line with these bronze statues and are transported back to the era of the Great Depression—if you have a great imagination, you might even feel your stomach growl! The men in line are bundled in their tattered winter coats, and the bags under their eyes betray the frustration of looking for work. Every detail is carved, be sure to notice the wear and tear on the brims of their hats. The statue’s life-like physicality, along with the grim historical context it represents, lends an authenticity that is both vivid and chilling. One cannot help but be moved by what is portrayed here.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997. The idea for a memorial originated in 1946 but it wasn’t until 1955, that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Commission was established by Congress. In 1978 the committee finally approved a design by Halprin and authorized construction in 1982. Ground was broken in September of 1991. Wheels don’t roll too fast in Washington D.C.
Waterfalls and moving water are important physical and metaphoric components of the memorial. Each of the four “rooms” contains a waterfall and as you move from room to room, the waterfalls become larger and more intricate, reflecting the increasing complexity of a presidency marked by the vast upheavals of economic depression and world war. The water elements at the FDR Memorial Washington DC are symbolic of many different things—a single drop of water reflects the economy that plunged the country into the Great Depression, while the stair-step reflect a dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The waterfalls are symbolic of the chaos of World War II, while the still waters represent FDR’s death. Together, all the waters come together to provide an overview of twelve years of his presidency. I hope that knowing this ahead of time enhances your experience.
On tours of the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, you’ll have the chance to reflect on the era when Roosevelt was president—the time when he reassured Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Before he was a leader, Roosevelt survived a bout with polio, which left him paralyzed and using a wheelchair. His story continues to inspire those who visit, even if they were born long after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Do plan to join Interlude for this Cherry Blossom mini-holiday and visit all the wonderful historical sites that are meaningful to us as Americans. It is a great trip and even if you’ve seen it before, I guarantee you will find new and interesting things to discover and enjoy. Check out the full and inclusive itinerary and book it soon. April and income tax will be here before you know it!!
– Interlude blog team
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