Saturday, April 13, 2013

DC's Delicate Necklace of Blossoms

The Backdrop For Three Striking Memorials

The beautiful cherry trees that grace Washington DC have quite a legacy. The history involves Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (the first female board member of the National Geographic Society), Jokichi Takamine (the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline), Marian Fairchild (the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell), and first lady Helen Herron Taft. 

I won't try to recite the whole (somewhat involved) origin of the trees here. Lets just say after much lobbying, and a few false starts, the efforts of many resulted in the planting of thousands of cherry trees along the reclaimed Potomoc tidelands from 1912 to 1920. 

Today, Washington DC's annual Cherry Blossom Festival attracts visitors from all over the world. And when their delicate blossoms burst open it creates a magical world particularly along the Tidal Basin.

The Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms
The Washington Memorial (Undergoing Earthquake Repairs) Beyond

Up Close

A Canopy of Color

The blooming trees provide visitors and residents alike a special time to enjoy a picnic, rent a paddle boat, or just snap loads of pictures of the photogenic blooms. The blooms also result in thousands of visitors experiencing the three beautiful memorials that reside along the Tidal Basin. 

The most prominent memorial is the iconic Jefferson Memorial which dates back to 1943. Due to WWII the bronze sculpture of Jefferson was not cast and installed until after the war in 1947. The memorial, based on a design by architect John Russell Pope, was completed during the presidency of Jefferson's admirer Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Nearly 50 years later a new 7.5 acre memorial dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt took its place along the Tidal Basin. The series of outdoor "rooms", designed by the celebrated San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, features water cascading from one room to the next. As it flows into each room the waterfalls get larger and more complex symbolizing the increasing challenges posed as FDR moved through his presidency. 

Tour Guides describe the symbolism of the water as follows:
• A Single Large Drop - The Wall Street Crash
• Multiple Stairstep Drops -  The creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority
• Chaotic Falls - World War II
• A Still Pool - Roosevelt's Death
• A Wide Array Combining Earlier Waterfalls -  A Retrospective of Roosevelt's Life

The Crash and Great Depression

World War II

FDR's Expression of Fear For A Post War World

FDR's Beloved Scottish Terrier Fala

The FDR Memorial is beautiful anytime, but especially so when the nearby trees are in bloom. I also love the way this remarkable memorial is illuminated at night.

The newest memorial is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. This memorial, designed by San Francisco's ROMA Design Group, was selected from over 900 entries from 52 countries. It was dedicated October 16, 2011.

The memorial slices a "Stone of Hope" from a "Mountain of Despair". The stone of hope steps forward and contains a powerful, larger than life, sculpture of Dr. King. The Sculpture gives the impression he is looking across the Tidal Basin toward the horizon. The memorial site is framed by cherry trees that will bloom each year during the anniversary of his death.

A 450' inscription wall contains fourteen excerpts from King sermons beginning in 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott and ending in 1968 just four days before his assassination. 

The King Memorial 

A Stone of Hope

Sculpture Detail

While the official description states the Dr. King is looking at the horizon. My own feeling is he may not simply be looking at the horizon. Perhaps he sees the Jefferson Memorial whose construction closed a whites-only swimming beach. Hopefully he can see the nation we can finally become.

Roadboy's Travels © 2013 

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