Points Of Interest

Point #1
Your tour begins here!

121 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 0
  • Attraction : MLK Memorial Bookstore
https://www.instagram.com/historicamerica/

Welcome to the Tidal Basin! Share experience with friends & family #historicamericatours TAG LIKE SHARE. :: We appreciate your support! Enjoy the tour! Welcome to the Tidal Basin! My name is Rachel and I’m the Professional History nerd that will accompany you today as we embark on our monumental journey here in the capital of the United States. Our tour today includes a number of national memorials and some incredibly iconic views from the Southwest end of America’s front yard, our National Mall. No matter what mode of transit you used to get to here, you should be standing at the intersection of West Basin Drive and Independence Avenue in West Potomac Park. There’s a small gift shop, information center, and restrooms behind you as you face the entrance to the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial. When you’re ready to start your guided walk, cross the street and meet me in the center of the entryway to King’s memorial, inside the plaza within the low granite walls. Don’t pass through the two large granite peaks just yet, I’ll give you a little more information before we explore the memorial itself. See you soon!

Point #2
The Mountain of Despair

121 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 1400
  • Attraction : Entryway to the MLK Memorial

We’re about to enter the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. A more recent addition, the Basins landscape; it opened to the public in 2011. This 4-acre space honors King’s message of pacifism and speaks to the ongoing struggle for racial equality and economic justice that the United States continues to grapple with today. King was an African American born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. In a world where reconstruction had failed and Jim Crow was the law of the land, King rose to become one of the best-known social activists in American history. He spoke out against racial prejudices and sought to end legalized segregation through peaceful protest. Like his father before him, and his father’s father before that, he graduated from Morehouse College and went on seminary. He was a pastor, and used this platform to embrace his calling to activism. King was a driving force behind watershed events such as the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, helping shape and materialize landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. He was a great orator and gave hundreds of speeches in his lifetime, but is best remembered for one he gave right here in DC, the “I have a Dream” speech. Clashes between unarmed black protestors and white police with attack dogs, water hoses, and worse generated headlines around the world and momentum was building for a mass protest, this one in the Nation’s capital. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was organized to shed light on the outrageous injustices faced by African Americans across the country. With the reluctant endorsement of President Kennedy, a crowd of 250,000 gathered on the National Mall. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—a monument to a president credited as the Great Emancipatory and closely associated with the abolishment of slavery in the United States—King shared his vision for the future. It was a spirited call for equality, he described a world where people would be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. He knew all too well the tremendous amount of change necessary to make his vision reality, but with faith he said, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” We’re looking at physical manifestation of those words. In front of you, is the mountain of a despair, the gap in the center, is where a “Stone of Hope” has been hewn from the mountain. Reinforcing this motif, notice that both the mountain and the stone bare scrape marks, scars that symbolize both struggle and movement. On the basin facing side of the stone of hope, we’ll find a carving of Dr. King, gazing into the horizon. You may now pass through the mountain of despair, and I’ll meet you at the base of the King’s sculpture, the stone of hope.

Point #3
The Stone of Hope

127 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 1388
  • Attraction : The Statue of MLK

The Stone of Hope. The year following the March on Washington, Kings renown as a nonviolent leader grew, he graced the cover of TIME magazine as man of the year and was awarded the Nobel peace prize. However, despite the accolades, King faced opposition. He faced opposition from those that found his critique of the status quo both insurgent and threatening, from everyday Americans to FBI Director J Edgar Hoover. He also faced opposition from those in his own community who felt his approach would fall short. Malcolm X and Stokey Carmichael’s messages of self-defense and Black Nationalism often better expressed the anger and fears of many African Americans. In spite of criticism from the Black Power movement, he remained committed to nonviolence. His weapons in the fight for equity were boycotts and sit-ins, speeches and written prose, always choosing conversation when confronted with conflict. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, initiated the “ poor people’s campaign” and openly criticized American intervention in the Vietnam War. His work and words influenced his generation, as well as the generations that followed after. King sought equality and human rights not just for African Americans, but for all victims of poverty and social injustice on a global scale. And his approach was always the same; peaceful. Let’s take a closer look at this 30-foot high relief of King. Pale pink granite ensures that the carving's details are still visible at night, and stand in contrast with the Mountain of Despair. Notice how King's lower half appears to fade into the rock, almost as though sculptor Lei Yixin didn’t quite finish. On April 4th 1968, King was fatally shot by a white supremacist outside of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. He was there to support the city’s striking sanitation workers. Could the unfinished nature of the sculpture represent his unfinished life, cut short due to his assassination? Or does it also speak to an unfinished life’s work. From inequalities in our justice system to generational poverty, we have evidence that the legacy of slavery still haunts our present. Have we realized King’s dream? What’s left to be done? And how should we do it? Take a few minutes to take in this memorial. If you turn around, with the Stone of Hope at your back, you’ll have a prime view of the Thomas Jefferson memorial. Snap a picture from here, but don’t worry, we’ll get up close and personal with TJ’s temple at the end of this tour. Behind the Stone of Hope, on the curves of the crescent-shaped wall, fourteen of King's quotes are inscribed. These include excerpts from sermons, speeches and letters, the earliest from the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and the latest from his final sermon, delivered in 1968 at the Washington National Cathedral, just four days before his untimely death. Start at the lowest part of the wall, behind the Stone and to the right, move along the wall reading each quote. Pass the space where we entered, and continue reading, finishing up at the lowest point on the left. I’ll meet you at the final inscribed quote before we exit this memorial.

Point #4
Towards Justice

121 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 1366
  • Attraction : The MLK Memorial

King saw our founding documents, the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence, as promissory notes. More than words, they were binding agreements that in these United States ALL people are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the “I have a Dream” speech he said America had defaulted on those promissory notes when it came to black people. King’s activism most certainly brought our nation closer still to a fuller realization of the ideation and values that bind us. The prominence of this memorial, and the man and the message that it honors, are in and of themselves a testament to progress As we depart from this space, we take with us words of hope and promise, "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Exit the memorial and turn left on the sidewalk. With Dr. King behind you, head toward the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. This path will lead you to a plaza with stone benches and shade trees.

Point #5
From MLK to FDR

262 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20245, USA

  • Distance : 1357
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

Hello, sidewalk! You're going the right way! Follow the signs for the FDR Memorial...bear right & just keep swimming!

Point #6
Almost to FDR!

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 1398
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

Almost there! On the left side of the plaza you’ll find a small stone building that houses park ranger offices, a bookstore, and restrooms. Then entrance to the restrooms are the tidal basin side of the building.

Point #7
Bookstore Entrance

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 1415
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

Refresh yourself as necessary and I’ll meet you at the statue of Roosevelt seated in a wheelchair within the entry plaza.

Point #8
The Prologue Room

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 0
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

Here we are. Standing in front of President FDR, immortalized in bronze, in a fashion he rarely even gave the public a glimpse of in his lifetime. Roosevelt had polio as a young man and it left him paralyzed from the waist down. He used canes, crutches, and; chairs with wheels to get around. He was carried by secret service. He leaned on his sons. He hid behind desks, and tables, and podiums. He had big arms, strong with years of picking up where his atrophied legs left off. He used water. He used water of warm springs to revive and restore him through his early years in politics, up until the end of his life. And what an extraordinary life he lived. In a moment we’ll explore the memorial dedicated to the country’s only 4 term president. Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, NY in 1882, an only child in an affluent family, he had the best education money and connection could buy. He studied law but abandoned law for politics. He was excited by the transformational Progressive Era and brought with him a spirit of reform to the White House. Roosevelt was stricken with polio in 1921, and at the age of 39, he was partially paralyzed, he lost the use of his legs. When he became governor, and certainly when he ran for president, he feared that he would lose votes due to his condition. So for the majority of his remaining years, he managed the illusion of mobility. He went to great lengths powered by sheer determination to maintain his public image. Perhaps the single most significant contributors to this calculated deception were the press. Photographers agreed not to take and publish pictures that revealed the open secret. The statue before us was added after the memorials initial opening Once you’ve taken in the prologue room, pass through the entryway to the First Term. You’ll see the presidential seal on the right. I’ll meet you at the bas relief of Roosevelt waving from his car, under the words “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”

Point #9
The First Term

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 1490
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

We’re about to explore the first term of FDR’s presidency. As you stand under these words “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, set your mind on an America before smartphones, computers and televisions. An America that wasn’t yet dependent on cars, and still leaned heavily on family farms. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people rushed to the banks in panic, but the bank, overwhelmed by the mass withdrawal, didn’t have their money. Almost overnight, basic stabilities were shaken. The Great Depression gripped the nation. At the time, there were no social safety nets and the role of government was drastically different than it is today. Move from the first room to the second room when you’re ready, I’ll meet you at the statue of the man listening to the radio.

Point #10
The Second Term

24 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 65
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

While domestic hardship remained dire, the entire globe was on the brink of disaster. World War II was brewing in Europe when Roosevelt decided to run for president a third time. Despite even some in his own party warning against it, he decided to break with precedent set by George Washington and seek a third term. While this was not unconstitutional at the time, it definitely raised a few eyebrows and provided his political opponents with an easy attack. While the republicans fired away at his third term ambitions, FDRs campaign fired back, reminding the country that a third term president was certainly better than one that was third rate. The Nazi’s invaded France, Italy was also flexing fascist muscles, and Roosevelt told the American people “I have seen war and I hate war”, he insisted that when re-elected he would keep the United States out of Europe’s war. The First World War was all too fresh on America’s psyche and we had our own problems, so the promise of minding our own business played well in securing victory on Election Day. Take your time exploring the Second Room, and we’ll meet again at the entryway to the Third Room. I’ll see you in front of the pile of large granite blocks, strewn in chaos, shattering FDR’s campaign promise.

Point #11
The Third Term

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 36
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

You should find yourself in front of what appears to be broken granite pieces. On November 5, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in office—an unprecedented act that would be barred by a constitutional amendment about a decade later. On December 7th 1941, Japanese fighter planes descended on Pearl Harbor. As you move through this unsettling space, make your way to the bronze likeness of FDR and his beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala, I'll meet you there.

Point #12
FDR & Fala

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 25
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

Here we find the president with his beloved dog, Fala. The fourth and final room brings us to 1945. Time was moving quickly and news of war, peace and the untimely death of the American president were about to unfold in a whirlwind. As you enter the next space, turn right and meet me at the bas relief of FDR’s funeral procession. See you in the 4th Term.

Point #13
The Fourth Term & The First Lady

1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 42
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

You’re looking at a funeral procession. Shortly after taking his oath of office for the fourth time, FDR traveled to Crimea to meet with the allies. It was time to navigate and negotiate the war's end. Stalin and Churchill jockeyed for political influence over smaller countries, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Poland, Stalin intent on the expansion of communism, Churchill fearful of its spread, and Roosevelt, eyes ever on the prize of a just and lasting global peace. There at the Yalta conference, FDR was enthusiastic and optimistic about the future, but it was clear that his health was failing. It was there that he acknowledged his disability for the first time in public, when after being wheeled into the chamber, he excused himself for not standing during his address. After the long and strenuous journey, back to the United States, FDR went to seek rest in Warm Springs, Georgia, and it was there before the end of WWII, where he passed. Meet me where you find the words freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Point #14
The Four Freedoms

3 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 31
  • Attraction : The FDR Memorial

The prose in front of you are the FOUR FREEDOMS. The society we live in today was shaped by Roosevelt's vision of global cooperation and economic equality. Programs like social security, minimum wage requirments, the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, the World Bank, NATO and the United Nations are ALL part of his legacy. His leadership in the face of domestic desperation and global catastrophe is inspiring. His ability to speak hard truth while instilling an unwavering confidence in the future is still relevant today. During his 12 years as president FDR confronted the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism head on and never once doubted that the American people could overcome any challenge that threatened our freedoms. As we leave this space, take with you a bit of his optimism and faith in humanity. Follow the path to exit the memorial and bare left. Just down the path, you'll see a granite Pagoda. I’ll meet you there.

Point #15
The Japanese Pagoda...and other gifts!

3 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20418, USA

  • Distance : 240
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

The granite structure before you dates back to the 1600’s. No the Japanese didn't beat John Smith to Virginia, this relic was gifted to us in 1957. When you’re ready to continue around the basin, you can take either the path along the water or the higher path. The lower path along the water is often flooded, muddy and slippery and there are unexpected low-lying branches, so be especially mindful if it's dark! The higher path runs parallel to a baseball field. Both the high and low path lead to the same bridge, ahead and to the left. I’ll meet you there, at Inlet Bridge!

Point #16
The Inlet Bridge

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 41
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

While I’m telling you about this bridge, go ahead and make your way to the middle, and set your gaze on the Washington monument. That’s the 555-foot obelisk honoring the United States First President. It was completed back in 1884 and it’s been dominating the skyline ever since! Ok, now that you’re out here, how about this basin?! This lovely body of water is actually a man made inlet. The story of the Basin goes back to 1881, there was a terrible flood that year and water covered the already stinky National Mall. This area used to be called the Potomac Flats, it was a sewage-filled marsh. A breeding ground for malaria. Aesthetics and disease aside, the waterfront was too silty to allow for easy shipping, which is pretty important when you’re trying to transition from a sleepy southern town to a bustling, cosmopolitan city! So, the Army Corps of Engineers began to dredge out the Potomac River, the silt and mud was placed behind retaining walls creating over 700 brand new acres of land, land on which many of our National memorials now stand—including Lincoln. The land was nice but the basin itself had a job to do, the rush of water from the changing tides would flush silt from Washington Channel, and keep it navigable for all that shipping. Engineers installed gates at the entrance and exit of a newly formed pond. These gates allow the pond to fill from the river at high tide, and at low tide empties through the Outlet Bridge into the Washington Channel which drains into the Anacostia River near it’s convergence with the Potomac. The seawall and the bridge you’re standing on were completed in 1940 by a 2-man firm from the Midwest. Archie Alexander and Maurice Repass met in college playing football at the University of Iowa and went on to build a very successful business, with clients across the United States. Alexander was black and Repass was white. Alexander & Repass hired both white and black workers for their projects, and they worked together in mixed crews, which at that time in American history was almost unheard of. While the Tidal Basin was created to harness the power of the Potomac and flush silt and sediment from the channel, it has also been a place of public recreation since its genesis. From mid-March through October, paddle boats are available for rent. It’s a fantastic loop to jog if that’s your thing. A wonderful spot to bring a blanket and book, that’s my thing. For a few summers in the early 20th century, it was even a beach! Off to your right, right about where the Jefferson Memorial now stands was the Tidal Basin Bathing Beach. A manmade bank of sand was funded by Congress and the beach opened in August 1918. There were swimming lessons and swim contests, fancy dive-offs at the multi-tiered high dive. Canoe races and tug of war. There were umbrellas and lounge chairs, this was a premier social hub—if you were white. Like most of the city, the beach was strictly segregated. Like many parts of the District in those days, the beach was strictly segregated…which actually led to the beach’s undoing. Congress was all set to fund a separate beach in DC for African-Americans, but a group of Southern senators torpedoed the effort. Instead of integrating the Tidal Basin Bathing Beach and providing a recreation space for all, lawmakers had the property dismantled in 1925. The tidal Basin itself was an engineering feat, but this little inlet has gained fame far beyond its function and become an iconic public landscape. Both sprawling and defined, the space allows visitors to explore individuals and events that have shaped United States history and celebrates what we value as a nation. Flowering Cherry Trees aside, this is a site to see! When it’s safe to cross, meet me across the street, in the center of the bridge on the other side.

Point #17
Hello, Virginia! (from the Inlet Bridge)

24 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 56
  • Attraction : The Tidal Basin

Standing in the white-gated viewing area, mid bridge, you're looking over at Arlington, Virginia. Notice the Pentagon & the Airforce Memorial. Once you’ve fully enjoyed the view, continue across the bridge and stay on the same side of the street, the path will get a bit narrow. Be mindful of traffic, as you cross the street to enter the George Mason Memorial.

Point #18
The Forgotten Founder

24 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 2429
  • Attraction : The George Mason Memorial

The Mason Memorial was dedicated in 2002, but the garden dates back to the early 1900’s. Stone benches invite visitors to have a seat with the Forgotten Founder. Cross the street again and meet me directly across from here on the other side a the fork in the sidewalk.

Point #19
Take the high road!

24 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 2273
  • Attraction : The Jefferson Memorial
https://savingplaces.org/savethetidalbasin#.XzbCuC3MwSc

The path ahead has a low road and a high road, both roads will both lead you to the Jefferson memorial. The low path is optimal for cherry blossom viewing, the high path is optimal if you need a snack. And sometimes you have no choice, because the low path is flooded! We’re taking the high road today! Bare right at the sidewalk split and continue down the sidewalk until you reach a Snack Shack on your left, I’ll meet you there!

Point #20
The Snack Shack

15 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 11
  • Attraction : The Jefferson Memorial

You made it to the snack shack. Grab a dog and a water if you need to and continue on to the memorial

Point #21
Almost there!

15 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 0
  • Attraction : The Jefferson Memorial
http://www.historicamerica.org

Here you can see the paths converging. Follow the widest path and I’ll meet you where this path empties to the base of the memorial steps.

Point #22
The Man

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 2117
  • Attraction : The Jefferson Memorial
http://www.historicamerica.org

You’ve made it to one of the most visited memorials in Washington DC. The neoclassical design harkens back to the pantheon in Rome, and the shallow dome is reminiscent of Jefferson’s own architectural signature found at both his plantation home, Monticello and at the school he founded, University of Virginia. This circular, open air structure, with 26 supportive ionic columns. The stairs before us rise to a portico with a triangular pediment, which features a carving of the five drafting members of the Declaration of Independence, a document primarily authored by Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a founding father, a Revolutionary & a Renaissance man. He was a lawyer, architect, philosopher, violinist, wine lover, diplomat, party goer, and a scientist and one of America’s most remembered statesman. He served as governor of Virginia and was minister to France. He was the first Secretary of State, the second vice president, and the third president of the United States. He was the author of the He was a Virginian. While many of his contemporaries battled internally, and in their writing, with the morality of institutionalized slavery, few let the heavy weight issue make it ringside in their politics. Jefferson was no exception and was in many ways a man of even more paradox and inconsistency than most. He hated the moral bankruptcy of Europe but he loved to hang out in Parisian Salons. He believed in small government and limited presidential power, but as President he brokered the Louisiana Purchase and single handedly, doubled the size of the United States. He opposed the aristocracy and the institution of slavery, but he enjoyed a life of privilege and owned human beings as property his entire life. Jefferson gave his generation, and every generation since the language of liberty. His words are the prose of democracy. He articulated a faith and value in humanity with such eloquence and authority that those words to live by, outlived him, and the words themselves transcend time in a way that the way he lived never can. Even if his contradictions can’t be reconciled, his words require no context to inspire. There is a tangible power in their Declaration. Start heading up the steps...a little over half way up and a bit to the left, my voice will greet you! Jefferson was the first Secretary of State, 2nd Vice President, and the 3rd President. Start heading up the steps, I’ll meet you about halfway up the steps and a bit to the left!

Point #23
The Memorial

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA

  • Distance : 17
  • Attraction : The Jefferson Memorial

Now with the memorial beyond you, look out across the basin. Do you see the white building that the trees seem to make space for? That’s the White House! Take in the view and continue inside the memorial. Meet me at the base of the statue for our final stop.