Architect Frederick H. Brooke first submitted plans to the memorial commission in 1919. Once the building was to become a reality with the passage of Resolution 28 in 1924, Brooke informed the memorial commission that Nathan C. Wyeth and Horace W. Peaslee had agreed to act as his associates in preparing the plans. All three were veterans of the war.
A circular, open-air, Doric structure built almost entirely of Vermont marble, the memorial has an overall height of 47 feet and a diameter of 44 feet, large enough to accommodate the entire U.S. Marine Band. It was intended that the structure be a memorial and a bandstand and that each concert would be a tribute to those who served and sacrificed in the war.
The memorial stands on a four feet high circular marble platform around which are inscribed the names of 499 Washington residents who died in service during World War I. The names were inscribed on the face of the platform in alphabetical order with no distinction made to rank, race, or gender. The D.C. War memorial is the only District memorial on the National Mall. It symbolizes the unique distinction of Washington, D.C. as a local entity even though it is the federal city.
Construction was completed in 1931 and the memorial was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover on the national observance of Armistice Day, November 11, 1931, "13 years to the day and to the house the armistice took effect." World War I veterans, Gold Star Mothers, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Disabled American Veterans made up some of the thousands in attendance for the rthe dedication. Thousands more across the country listened to the live radio coverage. Other notable attendees were General John. J. Pershing and John Philip Sousa, a native Washingtonian and the former conductor of the U.S. Marine Band.
ln 2010, the D.C. War Memorial received a $3.6 million dollar restoration courtesy of the American Recovery and Restoration Act. Conservators restored the memorial to its original, brilliant white color, installed new pathways and lighting systems, and laid out a more functional landscape. All of these updates allow for a beautiful, more accessible and safer visitor experience.