54 Ionic columns, five quotations, one statue — the Thomas Jefferson Memorial stands as one of the most famous Neoclassical structures in Washington, D.C. It also once served as one of the most contentious.
Even though the project did not receive any approval from the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and even though residents publicly opposed the plans, the memorial began construction in 1939.
The CFA and the National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (NCPPC) opposed the plans due to the grandeur of the structure and the changes in the street design that the construction would bring. Additionally, the structure would diminish the Tidal Basin's ability to flush the Washington Channel, according to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places inventory nomination.
In order to comply with demands, the Memorial architects altered the designs of the landscaping and the placement of the site. The design of the Pantheon, though, remained, despite members of the CFA favoring an open peristyle design. Regardless of any criticisms, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the construction to begin and later dedicated the memorial in 1943, during the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birthday.
The memorial was designed by American architect John Russell Pope, who is also known for building the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. He took inspiration for the structure from the Pantheon of Rome. The statue was designed by sculptor Rudulph Evans, who won a nationwide competition that received over 100 submissions.
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