When in Washington over spring break the Hayfoot and I went to Roosevelt Island. This out-of-the-way site is something most tourists never see, which is understandable given that it is a little difficult to get to. Still, as the crow flies it is only a mile or so from the Lincoln Memorial. Roosevelt Island rests in the Potomac River and can be reached from the Roslyn stop on the Blue Line. The Iwo Jima statue is at the same stop but we missed that this time around.
The Potomac River
Look closely through the trees and you can see the skyscrapers of Arlington, Virginia from the island. Landscape architecture is fascinating because the designer must be thinking decades down the line as to what his creation will look like when the trees and foliage fully mature.
One of Roosevelt Island’s charms is its tranquility so close to the Greater DC sprawl. The degree of difficulty in reaching the island is intentional. The planners wanted people to visit but also intended it to be a refuge. Believe me, you have to want to get here. Again, this is just a long toss from the Lincoln Memorial and the other sites on the Mall.
It may seem like pristine nature, but the island and memorial were a planned environment built by the Roosevelt Memorial Association in the 1930s. The RMA purchased the island from the Washington Gas Light Company for $364,000 and donated it to the American people in 1932.
Paul Manship designed the statue. It is more severe in photos than in person. The surrounding tress soften the subject’s commanding size and pose. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. created the ninety acre island’s landscaping.
The statue came several decades after the memorialization of the island itself. The Depression, World War II, and other issues took precedence over the statue’s creation. Lyndon Johnson dedicated the statue on 27 October 1967 with Alice Roosevelt Longworth in attendance.
LBJ and Alice Roosevelt Longworth at the statue dedication, October 1967
This monolith is one of four. Each notes an attribute considered important by Theodore Roosevelt.
Our only mistake was not bringing lunch. I have a feeling we’ll be back come summer.
(LBJ and Alive Roosevelt Longworth image from Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University)