Wanderlusting: The National Mall
“Monuments and archaeological pieces serve as testimonies of man’s greatness and establish a dialogue between civilizations showing the extent to which human beings are linked.” ~ Vicente Fox
The National Mall
After joyously caffeinating ourselves, Sarah and I headed to The National Mall. On maps, everything looks far apart, but it didn’t seem it when we were walking. Though we did end up doing 24 and a half miles in 36 hours, so it could be we are just use to walking as New Yorkers, or the fact that time evaporates whenever Sarah and I get together.
The name, “The Mall” has always confused me. Perhaps it is a testament to my shopaholic status, but when I was a kid, I legit thought it was an actual mall. I didn’t realize until I was older that the word “Mall” also means a grassy piece of land or promenade.
Alas there is no Nordstrom Rack or Athropologie at The National Mall. Instead, it is an almost two mile (from the Capital steps to the Lincoln Memorial) long park that is home to historical landmarks, monuments and the most important government buildings in the United States.
Originally suggested in 1791 by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, and known as the L’Enfant plan, the military engineer envisioned a garden lined avenue that would lay between the capital and a statue commemorating George Washington.
While it was never constructed, L’Enfant laid the ground work for the Mall as it is today, with the Washington Monument standing where he had envisioned the statue.
Over the next eighty years several architects worked to construct and create a place that would be used for gatherings, preservation, and to honor the country. In 1802 architect Matthew Carey became the first to coin the term “The Mall.”
Owned by the National Park Service, The Mall has had several major renovations over the years because of DC’s changing landscape, as well as commitment to pay tribute and memorialize pivotal figures and moments in our country’s history.
The United States Capital Building
Located at the Eastern end of The Mall, The Capital was commissioned in 1793 and was the combined efforts of several architects. Like many important government buildings in DC, it has Grecian and Roman designs, though The Capital was influenced by two more modern Neoclassical structures, the Louvre and Paris Pantheon in France. It was a homage to the strong friendship the US had with France at the time.
The Capital Building is home to the legislative branch of the US government and is one of, if not the most, important buildings in the US. It is an American symbol that is truly the focal point of DC, being seen miles away.
I admit, I never realized quite how magnificent the Capital was until I saw it up close. Every architectural detail is symbolic, beautiful, and powerful. It is a work of art and I could have spent hours memorizing every marble groove, it was that awe-inspiring.
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is a homage to the first president of the United States, George Washington. Begun in 1848 and finally opened in 1888, It is the worlds tallest stone structure and obelisk standing at 554 feet. Due to a lack of donations and the start of the Civil War, it took years to complete the hollowed structure.
With stairs, and later an elevator, people could go to the top of the monument until 2011 when an Earthquake caused structural damage resulting in its closure. Since, then it has been plagued with architectural issues, and is currently closed for repairs.
It was a shame, since Sarah and I were dying to go in it.
I saw “Spider-man: Homecoming.” No way in H-E-Double-Toothpick would I go to the top!
Height issues aside, it is another majestic piece of architecture and a fitting tribute to a strong dignified leader.
World War II Memorial
Sarah and I stopped briefly at the WWII and Lincoln Memorials respectively, but then chose to come back the next day, so we could take our time and and give it the appreciation and respect it so justly deserved.
Opened in 2004, it is dedicated to the American soldiers and civilians who fought in World War II. It consists of fifty-six granite pillars inscribed with the US States and territories at that time, as well as two triumphal arches all surrounding a fountain. It is a stunning tribute to history that should never ever be forgotten, and the courageous men and women who fought for injustice and to protect freedom.
There was something incredibly sacred and moving visiting the Lincoln Memorial. Built to honor the sixteenth president who was known not just for his tall hats, but his poignant and inspiring speeches, it is a memorial suited for a Roman King.
Once again, Neoclassical architecture inspired this memorial. Replicating a Greek Doric Temple, a large statue of Abraham Lincoln sits, presiding over the monument, with the inscriptions of his two most famous speeches etched into the walls.
168 instead of 36 Hours
We ended up going back to The Mall both days. Even then we weren’t able to make it to the Jefferson or Korean Memorials. You really did need a week or 168 hours instead of the 36 we had.
We were lucky enough to make it to the Archives, where we got to see the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.
While the Mall is a destination, it is filled with much reverence and history. It is a keeper and documentation of our country’s origins and it was inspiring if not a bit intimidating to see.
Have you been to The National Mall? What Monuments did you visit?