Jefferson Memorial

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The Jefferson Memorial
Tidal Basin, South Bank
Telephone: 202.426.6821
Admission: Free
Monument Hours: Open 8:00 AM - Midnight

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson - political philosopher, architect, musician, book collector, scientist, horticulturist, diplomat, inventor, and third President of the United States - looms large in any discussion of what Americans are as a people. Jefferson left to the future not only ideas but also a great body of practical achievements. President John F. Kennedy recognized Jefferson's accomplishments when he told a gathering of American Nobel Prize winners that they were the greatest assemblage of talent in the White House since Jefferson had dined there alone. With his strong beliefs in the rights of man and a government derived from the people, in freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, and in education available to all, Thomas Jefferson struck a chord for human liberty 200 years ago that resounds through the decades. But in the end, Jefferson's own appraisal of his life, and the one that he wrote for use on his own tombstone, suffices: "Author of the Declaration of Independence, Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, And Father of the University of Virginia."

Thomas Jefferson: A Chronology

Born at Shadwell, Albemarle County, Va., April 13
Member of Virginia House of Burgesses; very early part of increasingly anti-British faction; helped set up Virginia Committee of Correspondence
Attended Continental Congress; chosen to be on committee to write the Declaration of Independence and become its principal author
Member of Virginia House of Delegates; involved in rewriting state legal code to reflect republican principles concerning landholding, inheritance, and criminal law; drafted Virginia statute for religious freedom with the help of James Madison
Governor of Virginia
Ambassador to France; studies of architecture and Roman ruins led him to introduce the classical style in the United States, of which the Virginia State Capitol, the University of Virginia, and Monticello, his home, are notable examples
Secretary of State under President George Washington; bargained with Alexander Hamilton to locate the Federal City on the Potomac River
Vice President under President John Adams; supported states rights; opposed Alien and Sedition Acts as unwarranted infringement of individual liberties and of freedom of speech
President; negotiated the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States; sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River; strove to maintain the peace and not to be drawn into the war between Great Britian and France
Lived at Monticello; drew up plans, supervised construction, and outlined curriculum of the University of Virginia; corresponded extensively with John Adams
Died on 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, a few hours before John Adams

Building the Memorial

Jefferson's importance as one of the great figures in the Nation's history demanded a memorial site of prominence in the Capital City equal to that occupied by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Placing the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin, directly south of the White House achieved this, for these monuments, the White House, and the Capitol completed the east-west axis and its complementary north-south alignment, creating a monumental heart for the city. In the preparation of the plans for the memorial, the architect, John Russell Pope, was clearly influenced by Jefferson's taste as expressed in his writings and demonstrated by his works. The circular colonnaded structure is an adapation of the classical style that Jefferson introduced into this country. Rudulph Evans was sculptor of the bronze statue of Jefferson in the center of the memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 1943 on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth, four years after President Franklin Roosevelt laid the cornerstone. The memorial appears at its most beautiful in early spring when the Japanese cherry trees are in bloom. The trees were presented as a gift from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington in 1912.
Text by The National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
© Copyright Thaddeus O. Cooper 1996-2004