Washington’s new Eisenhower Memorial opens Friday after decades of planning, ‘drama’

The memorial, meant to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legacy as the supreme allied commander in World War II and the 34th U.S president, has actually been more than 20 years in the making since Congress commissioned it in 1999.

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A view of the new Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is photographed in Washington, D.C., earlier this month 2020.

One area of the new four-acre Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial park is photographed in Washington, D.C., earlier this month 2020. The military scene features Eisenhower symbolically addressing soldiers with a quote in large, block text above that he said on D-Day on June 6, 1944: ”The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!”

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WASHINGTON— Thenation’s capitaldidn’t get a chance to capitalize ontourismseason this year given the coronavirus pandemic. But a new memorial opening Friday should interest politically-savvy locals (especially those who have been paying attention to all the drama during its development).

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is finally opening after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic; it was supposed to in May to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ defeat of Nazi Germany.

The memorial,meant to honor Eisenhower’s legacy as the supreme allied commander in World War II and the 34th U.S president,has actually been more than 20 years in the making since Congress commissioned it in 1999.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C.

AP Photos

The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has held events all week leading up to the dedication on Thursday before the memorial opens to the public on Friday.

What tourists can expect at theEisenhower Memorial

The memorial is a four-acre park and features several columns, statues and a largestainless steel woven tapestryall meant to honor Eisenhower, designed byarchitect Frank Gehry.

Two giant columns on either side of Maryland Avenue in Washingtonflank the memorial. One denotes Eisenhower’saccomplishmentsas president and the other represents his achievements leading the Allied forces in WWII.

The legislation that formed the memorial commission required Eisenhowerbe recognized for both achievements, which”makes it unusual for a presidential memorial,”Victoria Tigwell, deputy executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, told USA TODAY during a walking tour.

President Dwight Eisenhower poses with President-elect John F. Kennedy at the White House in Washington, before a private conference in 1960.

President Dwight Eisenhower poses with President-elect John F. Kennedy at the White House in Washington, before a private conference in 1960.

AP

Thetapestry, intended to memorialize D-Day, is the real marvel: it’s450 feet long and 60 feet tall, posted 85 feet off the ground, with wires welded on to a stainless steel grid of 600 panels. Artist Tomas Osinski created the work which features the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on Normandy’s coast in peacetime.Tigwell said the tapestry was created from a sketch Gehry drew.

During the day, it’s best viewed from the back. But visitors can head there at night for a dazzling lit-up display from the front.

Elsewhere at the site are two large scenes also featuring Eisenhower’s military and presidential roles. The military scene features Eisenhower symbolically addressing soldiers with a quote in large, block text above that he said on D-Day on June 6, 1944:”The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!”

The presidential diorama features Eisenhower with three advisors, one military and two civilian.One of the civilian figuresis African-American. “We wanted to highlight Eisenhower’s work in civil rights,” Tigwell said. “It’s often overlooked for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But while he was president, hesigned the first Civil Rights Act since reconstruction,desegregatedWashington, D.C.[and]completed the desegregation of the military.”

Why should tourists make the memorial a must-see stop? Apart from a view of the Capitol Building in the distance,Tigwell said it will be even more eye-catching than the typical Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials at night. “The tapestry at night is transformative in what it does to this space,” she said.

Tigwell also reminded that the space isn’t only for tourists. Locals can come and sit on benches during work breaks (when workers return to their offices, that is):”This is the only presidential memorial that’s surrounded by buildings where people work every day. So now they have a park where they can come and eat lunch.” Department of Education staffers, if you’re reading this, it will be most convenient for you.

Tourism has plummeted in D.C. due to the pandemic. In July, the number of hotel room-days sold was 83% less than that time last year, and May airline traffic was 91.2% down from the year before, according to a report from the city’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

What’s the deal with theEisenhower Memorial controversy?

While stunning, the memorial has not been without its share of controversy during its development, according to reports fromCBS NewsandThe Guardian.

One point of contention during the memorial’s development was Gehry’s design of a young Eisenhower looking at metal tapestries showcasing some of hisbig life moments.

“I think we were perplexed by the design,” the president’s granddaughterSusan Eisenhower told CBS News. “The idea that a young boy would be looking at his future and wishing, what? To become commander of the most devastating war in human history? I don’t think he was dreaming to do that.”

The memorial features a sculptureofEisenhower as a teenager, inspired by a photo of him campingin his hometown ofAbilene, Kansas,still looking into the distance at a future version of himself (though not the original planned tapestry).

“The sculpture of young Eisenhower is accompanied by his own remarks about the ‘dreams of a barefoot boy,’” Tigwell said.”The inspiration is the notion that, regardless of what those aspirations may be, all children have dreams. And America’s promise to our children is the freedom and opportunity to pursue those dreams.”

Read more at usatoday.com

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