The United States Commission of Fine Arts has approved plans five years in the making for the new National World War I Memorial for Washington, D.C., which will include a sculpture and fountain commemorating the significance of the war while maintaining the existing qualities of its Pershing Park location.
The plans must now be reviewed and approved by the National Capital Planning Commission. Once approved, the World War I Centennial Commission will work with the National Park Service to finalize the construction permit to begin work this fall.
“One hundred years ago, 4.7 million American families sent their sons and daughters off to a war that would change the world,” said Daniel S. Dayton, executive director of the commission. “Finally, with this memorial, they will be recognized in the nation’s capital.”
The commission has published an 81-page document describing the memorial that can be downloaded here. Highlights include:
- A Soldier’s Journey, a bronze and granite sculpture of a battle featuring an excerpt from “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak,” a poem by World War I artillery officer, Librarian of Congress, and multi-time Pulitzer Prize awardee Archibald MacLeish.
- The Peace Fountain, a cascading waterfall located on the back side of the Soldier’s Journey sculpture.
- The Belvedere, a structure designers call the memorial’s “interpretive hinge” between the Soldier’s Journey sculpture and the existing Pershing Memorial statue. The granite and bronze belvedere includes descriptions various portions of the memorial along with details on U.S. involvement in the war and a World War I Victory Medallion. It will also have a donor panel of those who contributed to the memorial.
The memorial has been in the making since 2014, when Congress authorized the commission to locate the memorial in Pershing Park. The design by architect Joseph Weishaar was selected in 2015. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in November 2017 as part of World War I centennial events, but the construction permit is not in place; as of earlier this year, plans called for the structure's completion by November 2021.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said the memorial will connect future generations to the country’s history.
“It’s important that we have a tribute in our nation’s capital to the millions of men and women who served during World War I so that future generations may come to understand the sacrifices made on behalf of liberty,” Cleaver said in a news release announcing the design approval. “This moment has been a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.