When it comes to Washington, D.C., it feels like there's a historic site, memorial, or significant statue around every corner. Of course, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial seem to get the most attention (with good cause, admittedly) but there are dozens of other monuments worth paying tribute at as well. Here are a few lesser-known but super interesting D.C. memorials!
There are a lot of cool details that make this display really unique. A path takes you past four scenes that each represent one term of FDR's presidency, which spanned an incredible 12 years, from the Great Depression to World War II. Another interesting bit is that it's the only memorial to honor a First Lady as well: a scene shows the prolific Eleanor Roosevelt with the United Nations emblem. It's also really awesome that the memorial was design with those who have disabilities in mind (given Roosevelt's polio, which left him wheelchair bound). The memorial even pays tribute to FDR's beloved Scottie dog, Fala.
This lovely tribute commemorates one of the forgotten Founding Fathers: George Mason of Virginia. He penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights and was a member of the 1787 Constitutional Convention... although he abstained from signing the US Constitution because it didn't abolish the slave trade and he felt it didn't protect the rights of the individual from the government enough. He's known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights", which definitely makes him one of the more important, if lesser known, Founding Fathers.
The abstract design of this one is a departure from the usual statues, columned buildings and obelisks that make up most memorials. The three swooping spires, which stand at an impressive 270 feet high, mimic the contrails of Air Force Thunderbirds performing a bomb burst maneuver. Other details include a Runway to Glory, a glass contemplation wall, honor guard statues, and an Air Force star.
Not all memorials are dedicated to Presidents and wars-- case in point: this statue paying tribute to genius Albert Einstein. The larger-than-life bronze memorial features Einstein sitting on some steps and holding a paper with his three most important mathematical equations on it: the photoelectric effect, the theory of general relativity, and the equivalence of energy and matter.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most dramatic and effective memorials in the city: the way it starts off small, and then soars to an overwhelming height is incredibly moving. However, it's really nice that the women who served as nurses in the war get their place of honor as well. It shows three women, fittingly named Faith, who is praying, Hope, who is looking up, and Charity, who is tending to a wounded soldier.
This one is just plain quirky. Benjamin C. Grenup was a fireman in D.C. way back in the day who died after being run over by a water wagon. The obelisk has tons of details calling to mind his profession, like the fire hose and nozzles, the fire axe, torch, and spanner wrench and the fire hydrants that adorn the memorial. It also features a relief that illustrates his death.
The African Americans who fought in the Civil War probably have some of the most fascinating stories in American history, but they're a little harder to find than the well-documented lives of, say Grant and Lincoln. This monument was dedicated in July of 1998, and features a large statue depicting soldiers and sailors as well as a family. The statue is surrounded on three sides by a Wall of Honor, which lists the names of the 209,145 known members of the US Colored Troops. It's definitely a thought-provoking alternative to the Lincoln Memorial!
And there you have it! A guide to Washington D.C.'s lesser-known, but still pretty amazing memorials. The next time you're in the nation's capital pay your respects at these impressive, albeit underrated, monuments.
Roadtrippers co-founder. When I grow up I'm going to be Indiana Jones or a professional pizza tester. Current Status: Mom to Bruce and Nina.