Lincoln Memorial Grounds
Historically, the area was defined as the land bounded by Constitution and Independence Avenues on the north and south, respectively, and by the Potomac River and 17th Street on the west and east, respectively. The landscape generally includes the memorial circle, the Watergate steps, each of the major road and sidewalk approaches, the Reflecting Pool, and the Elm Walks.
Stretching from 3rd Street to 14th Street, city planner Peter L’Enfant’s historic promenade forms an integral part of the Federal City concept due to its great symbolic and visual importance. Symbolically, the Mall points the way west toward national expansion from a fledgling start along the Atlantic seaboard. Its long rows of elm trees, walks, and roads emphasize the vista to and from the Capitol while its borders of museums form a cultural center for the republic.
This enhancement of city planner Peter L’Enfant’s essential east-west vista stretches for more than two miles in length and incorporates the original Mall, the Washington Monument Grounds, and all of West Potomac Park. Preserved within this landscape are memorials to presidents, war veterans, and American heroes from three centuries. It is also here where the American people gather to celebrate our freedoms, First Amendment rights, and collective national heritage. The National Mall also provides numerous opportunities for people to enjoy nature and participate in a variety of sports activities.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers reclaimed nearly 700 acres from Potomac River mudflats and river dredge in the late nineteenth century and Congress decided to preserve this land permanently in the public trust. Potomac Park stretches west and south from the Washington Monument and includes the West Potomac Park peninsula forming the land mass south of Constitution Avenue and the East Potomac Park island in the middle of the river.
The 2,028-foot long water basin helps to maintain both the physical and visual connections between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The 160-foot wide western end sits at the foot of the several tiers of steps leading directly up to the Lincoln Memorial while the 175-foot wide eastern end provides a dramatic approach to the rebuilt Rainbow Pool and the World War II Memorial. The Reflecting Pool contains nearly 6,750,000 gallons of water and provides mirror images of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Running along the north and south sides of the Reflecting Pool, the elm-lined walkways provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Monument Grounds. They also help to maintain the axial relationship between the memorial and the eastern end of the Mall with its historic rows of elms.