This 7.5-acre memorial to the 32nd president includes waterfalls and reflecting pools, four outdoor gallery rooms—one for each of Roosevelt's presidential terms (1933 to 1945)—and 10 bronze sculptures. The granite megaliths connecting the galleries are engraved with some of Roosevelt's famous statements, including, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Congress established the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Commission in 1955,
and invited prospective designers to look to "the character and work of Roosevelt to give us the theme of a memorial." Several decades passed before Lawrence Halprin's design for a "walking environmental experience" was selected. It incorporates work by artists Leonard Baskin, Neil Estern, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, and George Segal, and master stone carver John Benson.
The statue of a wheelchair-bound Roosevelt near the entrance of the memorial was added in 2001. Originally, the memorial showed little evidence of Roosevelt's polio, which he contracted at age 39. He used a wheelchair for the last 24 years of his life, but kept his disability largely hidden from public view. The statue was added after years of debate about whether to portray Roosevelt realistically or to honor his desire not to display his disability.
You're encouraged to touch the handprints and Braille along the columns in the second room, which represent the working hands of the American people.
A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stands in front of the United Nations symbol in the fourth room. She was a vocal spokesperson for human rights and one of the most influential women of her time.
If you come with a toddler, head straight to the third room. Though youngsters can't sit on Roosevelt's lap, they can pet Fala, Roosevelt's Scottish terrier. The tips of Fala's ears and his nose shine from all the attention.
Allow about 30 minutes at this memorial. Take your time walking through the most expansive presidential memorial in Washington and read the lines from FDR's speeches.
This was the first memorial designed to be wheelchair accessible. Several pillars with Braille lettering and tactile images help the visually impaired.
This memorial presents great opportunities for family photographs. You can strike a pose while petting Fala, joining the men in the breadline, or listening to Roosevelt's fireside chat.
At night the lighting over the waterfalls creates interesting shadows, and there's less noise from airplanes overhead.