Who will own the D.C. War Memorial?
- The D.C. War Memorial today. (Photo: Joshua Yospyn)
Fountain says that while he anticipated the state of District-federal relations might create tension, he firmly believes the issues of voting rights and potential rededication “should be completely divorced.”
Grano and Fountain may have different visions for the memorial, but they’re both devoted to it. Fountain has lobbied effectively to bring needed attention to its disrepair after decades of neglect by the federal government and D.C., and Grano is fighting persuasively to preserve the District’s original intention.
Grano’s argument for keeping the memorial local compelled the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants (AOI), a District civic organization, to join him in his cause.
Bill Brown is the president of AOI and says the group picks its fights carefully.
“It had that element of messing with something in D.C. that is strictly D.C., and trying to cop it in a cheap and dirty way to fulfill someone else’s dream of having a national memorial and changing the name of something that D.C. residents paid for,” Brown says. “The only route we really have to go is to work with Congresswoman Norton or through Jack Evans or Mayor Gray and try to nudge these people toward some kind of action.”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Councilmember Jack Evans have served as honorary trustees at Fountain’s World War I Memorial Foundation, and Norton co-sponsored Poe’s legislation when it was introduced in an earlier Congress.
But this March after Grano sent a letter to Fountain, copying Norton, Evans, and more than a dozen others, stating his case for keeping the D.C. War Memorial local, Washington Post columnist John Kelly came down on Grano’s side.
“The next day I get a call from Norton’s office asking to remove her name as honorary trustee,” Fountain says.
Norton says she thinks she asked for her name to be removed before March. She says she initially became involved with the World War I Memorial Foundation not because she supported rededication, but because she saw it as the only way to get the site restored.
"The memorial had been a complete and total disgrace,” Norton says. “I had been heartbroken that I hadn’t been able to do anything for that memorial, so I just gave up and said maybe if it’s dedicated to everybody then it’ll be a decent memorial.”
Once stimulus funds came through for restoration, Norton says she saw no reason to continue her support of the World War I Memorial Foundation, and this June she introduced a resolution to keep the D.C. War Memorial local.
- The D.C. War Memorial in 1940 (photo courtesy the D.C. Public Library's Washingtoniana Collection)
A spokesperson for Mayor Vincent Gray said in an email that the mayor “supports continued local designation of the D.C. War Memorial as a tribute to the brave residents who fought for our nation.”
Councilmember Evans introduced a council resolution in 2009 in support of national rededication and is still listed as an honorary trustee at Fountain’s organization. Evans did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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