Article Summary: Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
Historic Sites In Washington D.C. More Than Just Parks has 20 incredible must-see sites for you.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing these articles for More Than Just Parks.
Now if you’re planning a trip to our nation’s capitol then one book that I highly recommend is: A History Lover’s Guide to Washington, D.C.: Designed for Democracy (History & Guide) by Alison Fortier.
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 20 Historic Sites in Washington D.C. that you’ll want to see. These are our top 10 sites which we will provide in reverse order. We’ve got amazing monuments, fascinating exhibits, historic museums, legendary figures and so much more.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents: Historic Sites in Washington DC
Table Of Contents
- Top 20 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Top 15 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Top 10 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- The Top 5 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- List Of Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Top 20 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
20. International Spy Museum
If you’re planning a trip anywhere to see historic sites, but have a limited budget there’s probably no city in America that can give you a bigger bang for your buck than Washington D.C. When it comes to historic sites, the nation’s capitol has more of them than anywhere else.
More Than Just Parks kicks off its list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. with an unconventional pick at #20. It’s the International Spy Museum. If you love the world of espionage then this is a must-see place.
The International Spy Museum presents the ingenuity and imagination of real-life spies with the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Spanning the history of espionage around the globe, many of these artifacts have never before been seen by the public.
It’s a privately-owned museum located in Washington DC, which is dedicated to the history and practice of espionage. The museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and attracts visitors from all over the world.
A Place Where You Can Learn All About The World Of Espionage
The museum features a wide range of exhibits, interactive displays, and artifacts related to espionage, including historical tools and equipment used by spies, examples of disguises, and gadgets used for secret communication.
Visitors can see a variety of espionage artifacts, including hidden cameras, code-breaking machines, and even a replica of the Enigma machine used by the Germans in World War II.
The International Spy Museum also features interactive experiences where visitors can test their spy skills, such as a laser maze, where visitors can simulate breaking into a high-security facility, and a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to step into the shoes of a CIA agent.
Additionally, the museum offers a range of educational programs, including lectures and workshops, and hosts special events throughout the year. The International Spy Museum is a fascinating and unique attraction for anyone interested in the history of espionage, intelligence gathering, and the shadowy world of spies.
Things To Do At The Museum
Some of the things to see and do at the museum include:
- Exhibits on the history of espionage and spycraft, including the tools, techniques, and technology used by spies.
- Hands-on exhibits and interactive displays, such as a virtual reality experience that puts visitors in the role of a spy.
- A collection of spy gadgets and tools, such as secret cameras, disguises, and encrypted communication devices.
- Displays on famous spies and spy operations, including those from the Cold War and beyond.
- Opportunities to learn about spycraft and the skills used by spies, such as codebreaking, surveillance, and covert operations.
- Special exhibitions on various aspects of espionage and spycraft, such as the role of women in espionage or the use of technology in spy operations.
Visitors to the International Spy Museum can expect a fun, educational, and immersive experience, with plenty of opportunities to learn about the fascinating world of spies and espionage.
19. Korean War Veterans Memorial
We move from the world of espionage to the forgotten war. At #19 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Why is it called the “Forgotten War” you might ask? The Korean War was fought from 1950 until 1953 and pitted the United States, South Korea, and their UN allies against North Korea and the Chinese Communists. The Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War” because it was largely overshadowed by WWII and Vietnam.
The Memorial is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the American servicemen and women who served in the Korean War. It was built to commemorate the 5.8 million Americans who served in the war, and the 36,574 who died during the conflict.
The Idea For A Korean War Memorial
The idea for a Korean War Veterans Memorial was first proposed in 1986 by a group of veterans who felt that their service in the war had been overlooked. The project was initiated by legislation sponsored by Senator John W. Warner, and it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
The design for the memorial was chosen through a national design competition, which was won by a team led by Frank Gaylord, a sculptor from Barre, Vermont.
The memorial features 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers, each larger than life-size, representing a squad on patrol. The statues are arranged in a triangular formation, with a granite wall inscribed with the names of the 54,246 American soldiers who died in the war behind them.
The memorial was dedicated on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War. The dedication ceremony was attended by President Bill Clinton, as well as many Korean War veterans and their families.
Since its dedication, the Korean War Veterans Memorial has become one of the most visited memorials in Washington, D.C. It serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by American soldiers during the Korean War and honors their service to their country.
18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
We move from a memorial honoring veterans of a long ago war to place which celebrates one of the earliest opponents of slavery. At #18 on our list is the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site which is located in Anacostia.
Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, but he escaped to freedom in 1838. He went on to become a leading voice in the abolitionist movement, advocating for the end of slavery and the full rights of African Americans. He also served as a diplomat, a newspaper editor, and an advocate for women’s rights.
In 1877, Douglass and his wife Anna purchased a home on Cedar Hill in Anacostia. The house, which was built in 1855, had 21 rooms and a commanding view of the city. Douglass lived there for the rest of his life, and it was the site of many important events, including meetings with President Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the day.
Efforts To Establish A Memorial
After Douglass’s death in 1895, the house passed through several owners and fell into disrepair. In 1962, a group of concerned citizens formed the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association and began efforts to restore the house and turn it into a museum.
The association worked with the National Park Service to create the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which was established in 1988.
Today, visitors to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site can tour the house and grounds and learn about Douglass’s life and legacy. The site also hosts a variety of educational programs and events, including lectures, tours, and performances.
The site is an important reminder of Douglass’s contributions to the struggle for civil rights and serves as a testament to his enduring legacy.
17. Ford’s Theater
Our next historic site in Washington D.C. is a place where a nation concluding the bloodiest war in its history experienced the shock of tragedy. At #17 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is Ford’s Theater.
Located in Washington, D.C., Ford’s Theater is best known as the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. The theater, however, has a rich history dating back to its construction in 1863.
The theater was originally built as a Baptist church in 1833, but it was purchased by John T. Ford in 1861 and converted into a theater. The new theater quickly became one of the most popular venues in the city, attracting some of the biggest names in show business.
John Wilkes Booth
On the night of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, attended a performance of the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater. During the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer, entered the presidential box and shot Lincoln in the head.
Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the following morning. Booth fled the scene and was later found and killed by Union soldiers.
After Lincoln’s assassination, Ford’s Theater was closed and remained closed for many years. In 1893, the theater was renovated and reopened as a museum, but it was later closed again due to safety concerns.
In the 1930s, the National Park Service took over the management of the theater and began an extensive restoration project. The theater was eventually reopened in 1968 and continues to host live theater performances to this day.
Today, visitors to Ford’s Theater can tour the theater and museum, which includes exhibits on Lincoln’s life and presidency, the Civil War, and the assassination. The site serves as a powerful reminder of one of the most tragic events in American history and honors the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.
Things To See At Ford’ Theater
Some of the things to see at Ford’s Theater include:
- The Theater: Visitors can tour the theater itself, which has been restored to its appearance at the time of Lincoln’s assassination.
- The Lincoln Box: The box where President Lincoln was sitting at the time of his assassination is preserved and on display.
- Exhibits on the assassination: Visitors can learn about the events leading up to the assassination, including the motives and actions of John Wilkes Booth.
- The Petersen House: The house across the street from the theater where President Lincoln was taken after being shot, and where he died the next day.
- The Lincoln Museum: A museum located in the basement of the theater, featuring exhibits on Lincoln’s life, presidency, and legacy.
- The Center for Education and Leadership: A museum and cultural center located next door to the theater, offering visitors a chance to learn about the history and impact of Lincoln’s presidency.
16. Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
Our next historic site celebrates one of America’s greatest military leaders who also happened to be the 34th President of the United States. At #16 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
The memorial, located in Washington, D.C., honors the life and legacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and the commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. It’s located near the National Mall and was opened to the public in 2020.
The idea for a memorial to Eisenhower was first proposed in 1999, shortly after his death. The project was initiated by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which was established by Congress to plan and oversee the construction of the memorial.
After several years of planning and design, a final design for the memorial was chosen in 2008. The design, by architect Frank Gehry, features a 450-foot long stainless steel tapestry that depicts the beaches of Normandy, France, where the Allied forces landed on D-Day in 1944. The tapestry is flanked by large stone pillars that feature quotes from Eisenhower’s speeches and writings.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a 9-foot-tall statue of Eisenhower as a young boy, which is surrounded by several bronze sculptures that depict different stages of his life, including his military service and his presidency.
The Eisenhower Memorial serves as a tribute to one of America’s greatest leaders, honoring his service to his country as a soldier, statesman, and president. It also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the men and women who fought in World War II and the role played by Eisenhower in bringing an end to the conflict.
Top 15 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
15. Supreme Court of the United States
We’re on to the Top 15 Historic Sites In Washington D.C. At #15 is a place which is considered to be one of the most important in the world. It’s the Supreme Court of the United States.
Why is the Supreme Court so important? First, as the highest court in the land, it is the court of last resort for those looking for justice. Second, due to its power of judicial review, it plays an essential role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power.
The Supreme Court is composed of nine justices, who are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices serve for life or until they choose to retire.
The Chief Justice of the United States, who is the head of the Supreme Court, is also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It’s located in the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.
The First Monday In October
The court’s term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until late June of the following year. During the term, the court hears and decides on a wide range of cases that have been appealed to it from lower federal and state courts.
The court also holds conferences to discuss cases and make decisions on which cases to hear. The court’s decisions are final and binding on all other courts in the United States.
The Supreme Court plays a vital role in interpreting and upholding the Constitution, and its decisions can have a significant impact on the country’s laws, politics and society.
The Court Building is open to the public on a limited basis, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the building and see the courtroom, where the justices hear oral arguments and decide cases, as well as the Great Hall and the courtroom’s historic spaces.
14. World War I Memorial
From the highest court in the land to the “War To End All Wars,” our next historic site honors the Americans who served in World War One. At #14 is the World War One Memorial.
Why was it called the “War To End All Wars,” you might ask? World War I was known as the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused.
Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict—the Treaty of Versailles of 1919—forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War Two.
History Of The Memorial
The World War I Memorial honors the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, including the 116,516 who made the ultimate sacrifice. The memorial was built by the United States World War I Centennial Commission, designed by architect Joseph Weishaar and officially unveiled on April 16, 2021.
The memorial incorporates the existing memorial to Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during the war.
It also includes the Peace Fountain, a cascade of water behind an excerpt from the poem “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak” by Archibald MacLeish, engraved quotes and references to the theaters, campaigns and battles in which American forces participated and exhibits about the role of the United States in World War I.
A Soldier’s Journey
The central feature of the memorial, a sculpture titled “A Soldier’s Journey”, a 58-foot-long bas-relief by Sabin Howard depicting the journey of a recurring American soldier and representing the larger American experience of World War I is scheduled to be installed in 2024.
The World War I Memorial is located at the former Pershing Park, 1.76-acres along Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 14th Street NW and 15th Street NW, across from the White House Visitor Center.
It builds on the original design of Pershing Park, which was dedicated at the site in 1981 as the American Expeditionary Forces Memorial.
13. National Mall & Memorial Parks
At #13 is a place which has had more visitors than it’s possible to calculate. It’s the National Mall & Memorial Parks.
The National Mall & Memorial Parks encompasses some of the most iconic and historically significant landmarks and monuments in the United States.
The park is home to many of the city’s most famous attractions, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, as well as many other monuments and memorials.
The park is also home to the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, which includes: the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and many more.
The Smithsonian museums provide visitors with a wealth of information and exhibits on American history, art, and culture.
Many Iconic Landmarks
The National Mall is also home to many other iconic landmarks, such as the U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and the U.S. Botanic Garden.
The National Mall is a popular destination for visitors, and it offers a wide range of activities and events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and guided tours.
The National Mall & Memorial Parks is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington D.C. and it offers visitors the opportunity to learn about American history, culture, and art while enjoying the beautiful architecture and monuments. It’s a place that embodies the national identity of the United States and its rich history.
12. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
We’re moving on to #12 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. It happens to be one of the places prominently featured on the National Mall. It’s the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Located in Washington, D.C., this amazing museum is dedicated to the study of the natural world. It was established in 1910 and is one of the most visited museums in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year.
The history of the museum dates back to the mid-19th century, when several scientific organizations began collecting specimens of plants, animals, and minerals.
In 1858, the United States Exploring Expedition, a government-funded scientific expedition, returned with a large collection of specimens from around the world, including many that had never been seen before.
In 1879, the Smithsonian Institution established the United States National Museum, which would later become the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The museum’s collections grew rapidly over the years, with specimens being collected from around the world.
In 1910, the current building that houses the museum was completed, and the museum opened to the public. The museum’s collections continued to grow over the years, and the museum became a center for scientific research and education.
The Smithsonian Today
Today, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is home to a vast collection of specimens and artifacts, including fossils, minerals, plants, and animals from around the world. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including human evolution, ocean life, insects, and the Earth’s history.
The museum also plays an important role in scientific research, with scientists studying the museum’s collections to learn more about the natural world.
The museum’s educational programs include lectures, workshops, and educational exhibits that help visitors of all ages learn more about science and the natural world.
11. U.S. Capitol
From a place which celebrates history to a place that makes it, at #11 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is The Capitol.
The U.S. Capitol is one of the most iconic buildings in the United States and serves as the center of the country’s legislative branch. Here is a brief history of the Capitol:
The idea for a permanent home for Congress was proposed in 1790 by George Washington, who envisioned a grand building that would be a symbol of the young nation’s strength and democracy. The site for the Capitol was selected in 1791, and construction began in 1793.
The original Capitol building was designed by architect William Thornton and featured a neoclassical style with a central rotunda and two wings. It was completed in 1800, and Congress moved in later that year.
The Capitol Has Gone Through Numerous Renovations & Expansions
Over the years, the Capitol has undergone numerous renovations and expansions. In 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops set fire to the Capitol, destroying much of the building. It was rebuilt and expanded in the following decades, with new wings added in the 1850s.
During the Civil War, the Capitol served as a symbol of the Union’s strength, and President Abraham Lincoln lay in state in the rotunda after his assassination in 1865.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Capitol underwent a series of major renovations and expansions, including the addition of the famous dome, which was completed in 1863. The dome was later restored and reinforced in the early 21st century.
Today, the U.S. Capitol complex includes several buildings in addition to the original Capitol building, including the House and Senate office buildings, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. The Capitol remains the center of the legislative branch and an enduring symbol of American democracy.
Top 10 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
10. African American Civil War Museum
We’re on to our Top 10 Historic Sites In Washington D.C. At #10 is a place dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of African Americans who served in the Civil War. It’s the African American Civil War Museum.
This museum is housed in the historic Grimke Building, which was built in 1871 and served as a school for African American children.
The idea for the museum began in the 1980s, when a group of local historians and community activists formed the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation to honor the contributions of African American soldiers during the Civil War. The foundation raised funds to build a memorial to these soldiers, which was completed in 1997 and is located across the street from the museum.
In 1999, the foundation opened the African American Civil War Museum in the Grimke Building, which had been vacant for many years. The museum features exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the African American experience during the Civil War, including the role played by African American soldiers, sailors, and nurses.
The museum’s exhibits include interactive displays, photographs, and personal artifacts from the soldiers and their families. The museum also features a research center that allows visitors to learn more about the history of African American soldiers during the Civil War.
In addition to its exhibits and research center, the museum also hosts a variety of educational programs and events, including lectures, panel discussions, and film screenings.
Things To See & Do At The Museum
Some of the things to see and do at the museum include:
- Exhibits on the role of African American soldiers: Visitors can learn about the experiences and contributions of the approximately 200,000 African American soldiers who served in the Union army during the Civil War.
- Artifacts and memorabilia: The museum features a collection of artifacts, including uniforms, weapons, and personal items belonging to African American soldiers, as well as documents, photographs, and other historical materials.
- Interactive displays and multimedia exhibits: Visitors can engage with hands-on exhibits, videos, and other multimedia displays that bring the history of African American soldiers to life.
- Talks and lectures: The museum offers a variety of talks, lectures, and events, featuring historians, scholars, and other experts who discuss the history and legacy of African American soldiers during the Civil War.
- Genealogy resources: The museum provides resources and support for those interested in tracing their family history and genealogy, including information on how to research African American soldiers who served during the Civil War.
Visitors to the African American Civil War Museum can expect a rich and inspiring experience as they learn about the role and contributions of African American soldiers during one of the most significant events in American history.
9. Theodore Roosevelt Island
We’re moving on from a place which celebrates the achievements of African Americans during the Civil War to one which honors one of America’s greatest presidents. At #9 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is Theodore Roosevelt Island.
It’s a 88.5-acre island located in the Potomac River in Washington D.C., United States. The island is a national memorial dedicated to the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.
The island is located within the Potomac River and can be accessed by a footbridge that connects it to the Virginia shore. It’s a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers, and visitors interested in learning about Theodore Roosevelt and the natural history of the Potomac River.
It features a 17-foot bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the center of a stone plaza, which serves as the focal point of the island. The island also features a variety of hiking trails that wind through the dense woods and wetlands, providing visitors with an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the island.
There’s also an array of wildlife like deer, foxes and many species of birds, and a visitor center that provides information about the island’s history and ecology.
8. World War Two Memorial
The “War To End All Wars” didn’t as you are well aware. At #8 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is a memorial to the most destructive war in the history of the world. It’s the World War Two Memorial.
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II, and the more than 400,000 who died. The memorial was dedicated on April 29, 2004, and is located on the National Mall, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The idea for the memorial was first proposed in 1987 by a World War II veteran named Roger Durbin, who wanted to honor his fellow veterans who fought and died in the war.
The project gained momentum in the 1990s when legislation was introduced in Congress to establish a commission to study the feasibility of constructing a World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law, and the American Battle Monuments Commission was tasked with overseeing the memorial’s design and construction.
Designing The Memorial
The design process for the memorial was led by architect Friedrich St. Florian, who won a nationwide design competition in 1997. The design features two large arches, representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war, surrounding a large pool and fountain.
The memorial also includes 56 granite pillars, representing the 48 states and eight U.S. territories that were part of the war effort, and two large bronze sculptures representing the Allied Forces.
Construction of the memorial began in September 2001, but was briefly delayed following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The memorial was finally completed in April 2004, and was dedicated by President George W. Bush on April 29th of that year.
Since its opening, the World War II Memorial has become one of the most popular attractions in Washington D.C., with millions of visitors from around the world coming to pay their respects to the men and women who served in the war.
The memorial has also become an important site for veterans’ organizations and military reunions, as well as a place for reflection and remembrance.
7. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
We move from the World War Two Memorial to a place which honors the commander-in-chief during this conflict. At #7 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
This memorial honors the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It’s located on the western shore of the Tidal Basin, near the National Mall, and covers 7.5 acres. It was dedicated in 1997, by President Bill Clinton, and is the first presidential memorial to depict more than one term of office.
The memorial is made up of four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR’s four terms in office, and each room is designed to represent the time period of that particular term.
The first room represents the Great Depression, with statues of the president seated, and a sculpture of a breadline.
The second room represents the New Deal, with statues of the president and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and sculptures of rural and urban workers.
The third room represents World War II, with statues of the president and a map of the war. The fourth room represents the post-war era, with statues of the president and a sculpture of the United Nations.
The memorial also features a waterfall, a pond, and a series of inscriptions of some of President Roosevelt’s famous quotes. The memorial is a popular tourist destination and it’s open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
6. The Washington Monument
We’re not done yet honoring America’s Presidents. At #6 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is one of the most iconic symbols in America. It’s the Washington Monument which celebrates America’s very first President of the United States.
The idea for the monument was first proposed in 1783 by the Continental Congress, shortly after Washington’s death, but it wasn’t until 1833 that construction began.
The design for the monument was created by architect Robert Mills, who envisioned a massive obelisk that would stand 555 feet tall, making it the tallest structure in the world at the time. The construction of the monument was funded by private donations, and the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848.
Construction Was Plagued By Numerous Setbacks & Delays
However, construction of the monument was plagued by numerous setbacks and delays, including the lack of funds, political disagreements, and the outbreak of the Civil War. Construction was finally completed in 1884, nearly 36 years after it began.
The Washington Monument is made of marble, granite, and sandstone, and features an elevator that takes visitors to an observation deck at the top of the monument, providing stunning views of the surrounding city.
The monument is also decorated with numerous inscriptions and plaques, including a dedication to George Washington, and a quote from the Bible: “Holiness to the Lord.”
Over the years, the Washington Monument has undergone several renovations and repairs, including the replacement of the original marble capstone in 1934 and the installation of an earthquake-resistant foundation in 2014.
Today, the Washington Monument remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C., and a powerful symbol of American democracy and leadership.
The Top 5 Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
President’s Park (The White House)
We’re on to the Top 5 Historic Sites In Washington D.C. At #5 we have what many consider to be the most famous address in the world – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s the White House.
The White House is the official residence of the President of the United States and is located in Washington, D.C. The building has a rich history that dates back to the early years of the United States.
The White House was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban and was completed in 1800. The building was constructed using white-painted sandstone, which gave the building its distinctive appearance. President John Adams was the first president to live in the White House, although the building was not fully completed at the time.
Over the years, the White House has undergone several major renovations and expansions. In 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops burned the White House and much of Washington, D.C.
The building was rebuilt and expanded in the years following the war, with the addition of the East and West Wings and the construction of the famous Oval Office.
It’s Been The Site Of Many Historic Events
The White House has been the site of many historic events throughout American history. In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in the Ford’s Theatre, located just a few blocks from the White House. In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in the White House, and President Harry Truman was sworn in as his successor.
In addition to serving as the President’s residence, the White House also serves as a symbol of American democracy and power. The building is open to the public for tours, and visitors can see many of the building’s historic rooms and artifacts.
Today, the White House remains one of the most iconic buildings in the United States, and it continues to play an important role in American politics and history.
4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
We’re on to the “Final Four.” At #4 is an iconic site which honors the life and legacy of America’s third President of the United States. It’s the Jefferson Memorial.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. was built to honor one of the most influential Founding Fathers and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. The idea for the memorial was first proposed in 1934, on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth, and construction began in 1939.
The design for the memorial was created by architect John Russell Pope, who was also responsible for the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art. The memorial features a large statue of Thomas Jefferson standing on a pedestal, surrounded by a circular colonnade of 26 Ionic columns.
The interior walls of the memorial are inscribed with excerpts from Jefferson’s writings, including: the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and his letters to various correspondents.
The Construction Was Not Without Controversy
The construction of the Jefferson Memorial was not without controversy, as some critics felt that the design was too grandiose and out of scale with the surrounding landscape. Others objected to the choice of location, as the memorial was built on reclaimed land along the Potomac River that was once a site of a black community.
Despite these objections, the Jefferson Memorial was completed in 1943, and has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C.
The memorial has also served as the site of numerous political demonstrations and rallies, including the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Today, the Jefferson Memorial stands as a powerful symbol of American democracy and the ideals of freedom and equality that Jefferson championed throughout his life. It’s a fitting tribute to one of America’s most revered Founding Fathers and a testament to the enduring legacy of his ideas and principles.
3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
At #3 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Washington D.C. is a memorial which honors the man who many consider to be the “Conscience of the Civil Rights Movement in America.” It’s the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial.
The Martin Luther King Jr. honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and civil rights leader who played a key role in the American civil rights movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist who is best known for his role in the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, King was raised in a middle-class family and educated at Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University.
King emerged as a leader of the civil rights movement in 1955, when he led the Montgomery bus boycott, a campaign against racial segregation on public buses in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott lasted for over a year, and eventually resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
King went on to become a prominent figure in the movement for civil rights, advocating for nonviolent protest and civil disobedience as a means of achieving racial justice. He organized and participated in numerous protests, marches, and sit-ins throughout the South, and became known for his inspiring speeches and passionate advocacy for equality and justice.
One of King’s most famous speeches was his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963. The speech called for an end to racial discrimination and segregation, and remains one of the most iconic speeches in American history.
Tragically, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, at the age of 39. However, his legacy as a civil rights leader and advocate for social justice has continued to inspire generations of Americans to fight for equality, justice, and freedom.
History Of The Memorial
The idea for the memorial was first proposed in 1984, but it was not until 1996 that legislation was passed to establish a national memorial to King on the National Mall.
The design for the memorial was created by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, and features a 30-foot-tall statue of King, carved from a single block of granite. The statue stands on a pedestal, surrounded by a wall inscribed with quotes from King’s speeches and sermons.
Construction of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial began in 2009, and the memorial was dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The dedication ceremony was attended by thousands of people, including civil rights leaders, political figures, and members of the public.
The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial has since become a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of King’s legacy as a civil rights leader and advocate for social justice. It serves as a powerful reminder of the struggle for equality and justice in America, and the enduring legacy of King’s ideas and principles.
2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
We’re on the the Top 2 Historic Sites In Washington D.C. In the runner-up position at #2 is one of the most visited sites in Washington. It’s the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the members of the U.S. armed forces who fought and died in the Vietnam War. The memorial was designed by Maya Lin, a Yale University undergraduate student, and was dedicated in 1982.
The idea for the memorial began in 1979, when a group of Vietnam veterans and their supporters formed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to raise money for a memorial to honor the soldiers who had fought and died in the war. A national design competition was held, and Lin’s design was chosen from more than 1,400 entries.
The memorial consists of two black granite walls that are sunk into the ground and arranged in a V-shape. The walls are inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. The names are listed in chronological order according to the date of their casualty.
An Unconventional Design
When the memorial was first proposed, it was controversial because of its unconventional design and because many people believed that it did not adequately honor the sacrifices of the soldiers who had fought in the war.
However, over time, the memorial has become an important symbol of healing and reconciliation for both the veterans of the Vietnam War and the country as a whole.
Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in the United States, attracting millions of visitors each year. The memorial is also the site of numerous events and ceremonies, including the annual Veterans Day observance and the reading of the names of the fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.
1. Lincoln Memorial
We’ve saved the best for last! Our #1 Historic Site In Washington is dedicated to the man who saved the Union. It’s the Lincoln Memorial!
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. He is widely regarded as one of America’s greatest leaders, and is best known for his role in leading the country through the Civil War and ending slavery in the United States.
Born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln grew up in poverty and largely self-educated himself. He went on to study law and become a successful lawyer, before entering politics as a member of the Whig Party.
In 1860, Lincoln was elected as President of the United States, defeating three other candidates. Shortly after his inauguration, the Civil War broke out between the Northern and Southern states over the issue of slavery. Lincoln believed that preserving the Union was essential, and he worked tirelessly to lead the North to victory in the war.
In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves in the Confederate states were to be set free. This was a major turning point in the war and helped to shift the focus of the conflict from preserving the Union to ending slavery.
Following the Union’s victory in the Civil War, Lincoln continued to work towards ensuring that the rights of African Americans were protected. He supported the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery in the United States.
Tragically, Lincoln’s presidency was cut short when he was assassinated in April 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War. However, his legacy as a leader who helped to preserve the Union, end slavery, and advance the cause of civil rights in America has continued to inspire generations of Americans.
The History Of The Lincoln Memorial
The idea for the monument was first proposed in 1867, just two years after Lincoln’s assassination, but it was not until 1911 that Congress passed a bill to authorize its construction.
The design for the Lincoln Memorial was created by architect Henry Bacon, and it features a large, marble statue of Lincoln sitting in a chair. The statue is surrounded by 36 columns, representing the 36 states that were part of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.
The memorial also features inscriptions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his famous Gettysburg Address.
Construction of the Lincoln Memorial began in 1914, and it was completed in 1922, at a cost of approximately $2 million. The dedication ceremony was attended by thousands of people, including President Warren G. Harding, and it featured a performance by the famous contralto Marian Anderson.
Since its completion, the Lincoln Memorial has become one of the most iconic monuments in the United States, and a symbol of Lincoln’s legacy as a leader who fought to preserve the Union and end slavery.
It has also been the site of many historic events, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and protests and demonstrations in support of civil rights and social justice.
Today, the Lincoln Memorial remains a popular tourist attraction, and a testament to the enduring legacy of one of America’s greatest leaders.
List Of Historic Sites In Washington D.C.
- Lincoln Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- President’s Park (White House)
- Washington Monument
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- World War II Memorial
- Theodore Roosevelt Island
- African American Civil War Museum
- U.S. Capitol
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- National Mall & Memorial Parks
- World War I Memorial
- Supreme Court of the United States
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
- Ford’s Theater
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- International Spy Museum
Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Washington D.C.?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, U.S. Forest Service, and more for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
And, in 2018, our father – having spent a lifetime teaching history – joined us so that he could help us to tell the stories behind these amazing places.
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National Parks In Washington D.C.: 40 EPIC National Parks In Washington D.C.