The District of Columbia World War I Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool isn’t well known or much visited. It has been neglected and forgotten for decades but in the last couple of years has finally gotten some long-overdue attention.
The DC World War I Memorial is the only city-centric monument on the National Mall. It’s dedicated to the 26,000 or so Washingtonians who served in World War I and is sometimes referred to as the DC War Memorial. Inscribed on its base are the names of the Washingtonians who died in the war, and unusually for the time, it includes the names of all Washingtonians who died, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.
Shaped like a much smaller, much simpler version of the Jefferson Memorial, it was designed as a domed band stand. It was dedicated on Remembrance Day 1931, on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month. President Herbert Hoover was on hand for the ceremony, and the band was conducted by John Philip Sousa. Construction was paid for by Washington DC, including a fundraising drive that asked the District’s school students to donate 5 cents in exchange for a “535” badge denoting the number of Washingtonians who did not come back from the war.
The DC World War I Memorial was neglected for decades, but in recent years it has received some much-needed attention thanks to a $7.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Landscaping has been upgraded, trees that had obscured access cleared, the cracked and fading stonework has been repaired and renovated, the lighting upgraded, and a small paved piazza on its southern front added in keeping with its 1930s vision.
There are memorials on the National Mall commemorating those who served in World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, but there is no national memorial for those who served in World War I. It has not been for lack of trying, and it’s about to change. After 100 years a new National World War I Memorial has begun in Pershing Park, next to the White House. It’s expected to be opened to the public in 2018 for the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I.
The World War I Memorial is directly across the street from the MLK Memorial.
There’s no parking right near the Memorial, although there’s usually parking along the waterfront of West Potomac Park.
There are no entrance fees, reservations, or tickets for the World War I Memorial.
The World War I Memorial is accessible all day and night. There’s no problem using a tripod or flash. It’s very rarely crowded, and you’ll often have it to yourself.
Commercial shoots may require a permit
If you're coming in from out of town, here are some of the most popular guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit.
And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's rich history.