REORGANIZATION OF 1933
The twenty-one National Memorials are an important segment of the National Park System for they include such world famous shrines as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, and others added to the System in 1933 and since. These have a long background important to understanding the System.
The Continental Congress authorized the first memorials in our history during the Revolutionary War, just as it also authorized other symbols of nationhood the flag, coins, and medallions.
The first memorial was authorized by the Continental Congress on January 25, 1776, to honor General Richard Montgomery, killed during an assault on the heights of Quebec in the midst of a snowstorm on the night of December 31, 1775. Montgomery commanded New York troops sent a few months before on an expedition, which also included Benedict Arnold's forces, designed to win Canada to the Revolutionary cause. It failed before Quebec, and Montgomery, only 37 years old, became one of the first Revolutionary generals to lose his life on the field of battle. When word of his death reached Philadelphia, Congress voted 300 pounds for a monument to Montgomery's memory, and entrusted the fund to Benjamin Franklin, shortly due to leave for Paris, in order that one of the best French artists might be secured to create it. Franklin engaged the King's sculptor, Jean Jacques Caffieri, to design and make the monument. Upon completion, in 1778, it was shipped to America in eight boxes, arriving at Edenton, North Carolina, in the midst of the War, where it remained for several years. Although originally intended for Independence Hall, in 1784 Congress decided to place the memorial in New York. Four years later it was carefully installed under the direction of Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant beneath the portico of St. Paul's Chapel, architecturally one of the most important buildings in the City and the church where Washington worshipped regularly as our first President in 1789. The Montgomery Memorial is still there today, and although not a part of the National Park System, St. Paul's Chapel is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Continental Congress climaxed its commemorative actions in August 1783 by resolving "that an equestrian statue of General Washington be erected where the residence of Congress shall be established." L'Enfant's Plan provided a prominent location for this statue on the Mall at the intersection point of lines drawn west from the Capitol and south from the President's House later the site of the Washington Monument. Washington approved this site but concluded that the expense of the statue was then unwarranted. It was not erected during his lifetime, but many years later, on January 25, 1853, Congress recalled the authorization passed seventy years before and provided the funds. The equestrian statue of Washington was executed by Clark Mills, placed in Washington Circle on Pennsylvania Avenue, and dedicated in 1859. It is there today, a significant feature of National Capital Parks and the National Park System, possessing an ancient origin in the halls of the Continental Congress itself.
The death of Washington on December 14, 1799, threw the nation into mourning. A few days later, Congress passed a resolution introduced by Representative John Marshall providing for a marble monument in the Capitol to commemorate the great events of Washington's military and political life. This monument was not executed as planned. When the centennial of Washington's birth came in 1832 with no satisfactory monument to his fame in the National Capital, George Watterston, Librarian of Congress, and other civic leaders organized the Washington Monument Society, to erect an appropriate monument from private subscriptions. John Marshall agreed to serve as honorary president. In 1848 Congress transferred a site on the Mall to the Society, and the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4. But progress was slow, and further impeded by the Civil War. When the nation's first centennial came around in 1876 with the Washington Monument only one-third completed, Congress passed legislation authorizing the transfer of the Monument and site to the United States for completion and subsequent maintenance as a National Memorial. The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.
During the Centennial years the people of France offered the Statue of Liberty as a gift to the people of the United States another great National Memorial. On March 3, 1877, the President approved a joint resolution of Congress authorizing him to accept the Statue, provide a suitable site in New York Harbor, and arrange for its preservation "as a monument of art and the continued good will of the great nation which aided us in our struggle for freedom." The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
Each of the other National Memorials has unique interest, too. The first of the many monuments that dot the circles, squares and triangles of National Capital Parks to be completed was the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, which occupies the center of Lafayette Square, opposite the White House. It was dedicated in January 1853. Over the years more than 75 other memorials and monuments have been erected in the parks of the National Capital, including the Grant Memorial on the Mall, authorized on February 23, 1901.
The great Lincoln Memorial was authorized by Congress on February 9, 1911, to occupy a site on the extended Mall proposed as part of the McMillan Plan. One of the most beloved of all our National Memorials, it was dedicated on May 30, 1922.
Six more national memorials were authorized before the reorganization of 1933 the Cabrillo National Monument, California, really a memorial, proclaimed in 1913; Perry's Victory Memorial, Ohio, authorized in 1919; Arlington Memorial Bridge, Washington, D.C., in 1925; Wright Brothers National Memorial, North Carolina, originally the Kill Devil Hill Memorial, in 1927; Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, in 1925; and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C. in 1932.
In 1933 these National Memorials were added to the National Park System and the National Memorial function assigned to the National Park Service, except Perry's Victory Memorial, which was administered by a commission until it was added to the System in 1936. Also, the fiscal functions of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission were assigned to the National Park Service in 1933 and the Memorial itself in 1938.