History & Culture
Constitution Gardens is a living legacy to the founding of the republic as well as an oasis in the midst of a city landscape. The 50 acres of the park were originally beneath the Potomac River. Near the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiated a dredging project that created the land that became Potomac Park.
Beginning in World War I, the government maintained "temporary" office buildings on this site for use by the United States Navy and the Munitions Department. Nicknamed "Tempos," these structures remained until the 1970s when President Richard M. Nixon ordered their removal. After the Navy finally withdrew from them, the buildings were demolished in 1971. President Nixon then directed that a park be laid out on the land, leading to the creation of Constitution Gardens.
The Gardens were dedicated in May of 1976 as an American Revolution Bicentennial tribute. On July 2, 1984, the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated on the small island in the lake.
On September 17, 1986, in honor of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation making Constitution Gardens a living legacy tribute to the Constitution. Visitors enjoy the park all year as the home for a wide array of urban wildlife. Constitution Gardens has been a separate park unit since 1982.