Unbuilt DC: Washington Monument Gardens

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Washington DC National Mall
Watercolor rendering of the proposed Washington Monument Gardens by Charles Graham for the United States Senate Park Commission in 1902

In the early twentieth century, American legislators determined to improve the historical core of Washington DC. A commission led by Senator James McMillan of Michigan introduced proposals, many of which were implemented piecemeal. The National Mall was transformed from a forest-like Victorian park into the single expanse of grass we know today. Museums and cultural centers were erected along its east-west axis and the Lincoln Memorial with its iconic reflecting poll was built on the western end, across the Mall from the Capitol.

One element of the plan that didn’t come to fruition were the Washington Monument Gardens: a system of terraces, steps and arcades around the base of the Washington Monument. It was later discovered that the gardens, as proposed, would have destabilized the obelisk’s foundations.

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