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12 Fascinating Facts About The FDR Memorial

This monument is dedicated to the 32nd president of the United States.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the FDR Memorial, a historic attraction in Washington D.C.

1. It’s dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The FDR Memorial is dedicated to the 32nd president of the United States named Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), better known by his initials FDR.

He was in office from March 4, 1933, until his death on April 12, 1945, and was the only president in U.S. history to have won the presidential election 4 times.

While he received a lot of criticism, he is still rated by many historians as one of the best presidents in the history of the country after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He had the difficult task of leading a nation during the Great Depression and World War II, not easy by any means.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR / Leon A. Perskie /

2. It’s located in West Potomac Park in Washington D.C.

The memorial dedicated to FDR is located on an area covering 7.5 acres (3 hectares) along the Cherry Tree Walk. This area is located on the southwest side of the Tidal Basin.

It’s located just west of the Jefferson Memorial, and to the south of the National Mall, a monumental park in Washington D.C. that contains numerous other landmarks. Some of these are the Lincoln Memorial, the reflecting pool, and the Washington Monument, to name a few.

Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument with the FDR Memorial behind it
Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument with the FDR Memorial behind it. / Pixabay

3. It consists of 4 large outdoor areas

FDR was not just the 32nd president of the United States, he also held this position for a record of 4 terms. This remarkable fact is reflected in the way the memorial was designed.

It consists of 4 large outdoor rooms that represent each of the 4 terms of Roosevelt. The gardens are decorated with various fountains, sculptures, and monuments referring to his presidency.

facts about the FDR Memorial
Inside the memorial / AgnosticPreachersKid /

4. The most important element of the memorial is water

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

The water running through the fountains aren’t merely decorative features, but actually represent the phases of FDR’s presidency and life in general. The symbolism of the 5 main water areas is reflected in:

  • A single large drop – The crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression
  • Multiple stairstep drops – The Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project
  • Chaotic falls at varying angles – World War II
  • A still pool – Roosevelt’s death
  • A combination of the earlier waterfalls – A retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency
FDR Memorial waterfalls
Memorial Waterfalls / Stefan Fussan /

5. It includes quotes from FDR during famous speeches

One of the most fascinating facts about the FDR Memorial is that it contains numerous monuments which include quotes FDR made during his speeches.

This allows visitors to understand why exactly FDR is considered to be one of the best presidents in U.S. history and what he stood for during his difficult time in office.

FDR Memorial quote

6. FDR’s first memorial was a lot more humble

One of the most interesting facts about the FDR Memorial is that it’s not the first memorial dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There’s another memorial dedicated to the 32nd president of the United States which was created based on his own description.

This means it’s a very humble monument as Roosevelt gave these instructions during a conversation in the year 1941:

If any memorial is erected to me, I know exactly what I should like it to be. I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this (putting his hand on his desk) and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building. I don’t care what it is made of, whether limestone or granite or whatnot, but I want it plain without any ornamentation, with the simple carving, “In Memory of __“.

Roosevelt referring to his future memorial.

On the twentieth anniversary of his death, on April 12, 1965, the small memorial as erected based on his description, on the location he requested as well.

original FDR Memorial
The original memorial / Nick-D /

7. The design of the memorial was decided upon in 1974

As with many other monuments and important buildings in Washington D.C., the design of the memorial was decided upon by organizing an architectural competition.

The competition was won by Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009), a landscape architect from San Francisco. One of the most interesting facts about the FDR Memorial is that this competition ended in 1974, but no funds were allocated for the project for another 20 years.

FDR Memorial design at night
The memorial at night / Pixabay

8. The monument was opened in the year 1997

The memorial is part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks administrative unit. It was officially opened on May 2, 1997, by then-president Bill Clinton.

The moment it as opened it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well.

9. The fountains and waterfalls were turned into a pool for a few days

The organization managing the monument made a crucial mistake in the first couple of days after opening this historic landmark in Washington D.C. The National Park Service actually allowed visitors to swim in the fountains and various water areas of the memorial, which they obviously did.

Fearing both accidents and damage to this wonderful monument, they decided to ban swimming altogether, which was obviously the right decision.

FDR Memorial water area

10. A second statue of FDR was erected a few years after the original

The statue of FDR was controversial the moment it was created. The reason is that the fact FDR was sitting in a wheelchair because of his disability was hidden from sight.

This encouraged the National Organization on Disability to start a fundraiser and they collected about $1.65 million USD in about 2 years to fund the creation of a second statue.

The statue, which clearly depicts FDR sitting in his wheelchair, was created and was placed near the entrance of the memorial in January of the year 2001.

Apart from this, the memorial has also been designed in such a way that it is easily accessible for people suffering from both visual and physical impairments.

FDR statue in a wheelchair near the entrance of the FDR memorial
FDR statue near the entrance / Ingfbruno /

11. It also includes a bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR’s pet

Apart from various sculptures referring to things that happened during FDR’s presidency and FDR himself, there are also a couple of sculptures from his personal life.

These include a sculpture of FDR’s wife, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, as she stands in front of the United Nations emblem in honor of her dedication to the UN.

The original statue of FDR, which hides his wheelchair, also features his pet dog, a Scottish terrier named Fala which arguably became the most famous presidential pet in history!

FDR and his pet dog Fala
FDR and his pet Fala / Stefan Fussan /

12. The memorial wall is engraved with the 4 freedoms

One of the most famous speeches that Franklin D. Roosevelt ever gave is now being referred to as the “4 Freedoms Speech.” In this State of the Union speech, which he gave on January 6, 1941, he referred to the 4 Freedoms as follows:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear

These historical words are now eternally engraved on the famous “memorial wall” of the FDR Memorial!

The 4 freedoms on the memorial wall of the FDR memorial
The 4 freedoms / Wiki Commons