The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool has received a much-needed face-lift. After two years of reconstruction, the historic landmark reopened to the public on Aug. 31.
“The reflecting pool is the location of some incredible events that have taken place in our country’s history, from Marian Anderson singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ to President Obama’s inauguration. It is so meaningful to the American people,” said Carol Johnson, spokeswoman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C. “The Park Service is thrilled to have it reopened. It is something that will be appreciated for generations to come.”
Located on the National Mall east of the Lincoln Memorial, the original structure was designed by Henry Bacon and dedicated in 1922. Measuring 168 feet wide by 2,029 feet long, it took more than 6 million gallons of city water to fill.
Because Washington, D.C., is built on a landfill, the weight of the concrete structure finally gave way and the pool sank nearly a foot since originally being built, Johnson explained. As a result, it was losing 50,000 gallons of water to leaks and evaporation weekly.
The renovation was funded by a $34 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The new pool contains 3 million pounds of rebar, 350,000 square feet of wire mesh, 14,300 linear feet of pipe and 2,130 pilings to help prevent it from sinking again. It also features 19,000 cubic yards of poured tinted concrete to make the water more reflective. The project was led by Corman Construction, based in Annapolis Junction, Md. The Louis Berger Group of Morristown, N.J., is the architect of record, and Sasaki Associates in Boston handled the original concept.
But despite its remodel, the pool retains some of its former self. It is shallower by approximately 4 inches, but it still has the same footprint. Additionally, the original granite coping stones that lined its circumference were preserved and reused. In fact, when the coping stones were removed, they were cataloged so each one could be put back in the same place, Johnson said.
“We wanted to do whatever we could to keep the history of it intact,” she explained.
But unlike the previous incarnation, the new pool draws its water from the tidal basin that sits between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It requires 4 million gallons of water a year, but after factoring in condensation, likely will use up to 10 million. Even so, the new process will save nearly 20 million gallons of water annually.
The pool now also features a recirculation system, which helps prevent algae and bacteria from forming. The pool will need to be emptied annually for cleaning.
Facilitating a project of this size in a space that receives nearly 24 million visitors a year is no easy task. Unlike traditional construction sites that are sealed off from the public, the Lincoln Memorial was open during the project with the general work area viewable to passersby.
“It was a huge project,” Johnson said. “People were very eager for it to open. We’re so happy to have it done.”