History of the U.S. Navy Memorial
For America's sea services, the United States Navy Memorial is the triumph of a centuries-old dream. In the early days of America's national independence, architect Pierre L'Enfant envisioned a memorial in the Nation’s Capital to "to celebrate the first rise of the Navy and consecrate its progress and achievements." But it was only in the twentieth century that L'Enfant's vision of a Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., was realized.
Pennsylvania Avenue, "America's Main Street," the boulevard that links the U.S. Capitol and White House, the scene of so many parades, pageants, and national memories, was chosen to be the location.
After President John F. Kennedy – himself a Navy war hero – inspired the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue, another Navy war hero, Admiral Arleigh Burke, proclaimed in 1977 that "we have talked long enough about a Navy Memorial and it's time we did something about it." Burke and several Navy colleagues got busy: They founded a non-profit organization, the United States Navy Memorial.
In 1980, under the Presidency of Rear Admiral William Thompson, USN (Ret.), the United States Navy Memorial sought and received the blessing of Congress to construct a Navy Memorial on public land in the District of Columbia. Working with the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, the Foundation selected Market Square, across the street from the National Archives, as the Navy Memorial's site.
Construction began in December 1985, and the Memorial was dedicated two years later on October 13, 1987, the 212th birthday of the United States Navy. "The Navy Memorial is new," said Admiral Thompson, "but it is rich in tradition and heritage that parallel the history of the Navy and the history of the United States."
Excerpted from the book From The Sea.