It seems that the well-deserved memorial to honor the nation’s 34th president will have to wait a little longer.
Planning for a Washington, D.C., monument to honor President Dwight Eisenhower has been underway for about 15 years. Last week, the plans hit yet another roadblock when the National Capital Planning Commission, which oversees plans for monuments in the nation’s capital, rejected the current design and sent it back to architects for revisions.
Although there is broad consensus that Eisenhower, who grew up in Abilene, Kan., is more than deserving of this national honor, the memorial’s design by well-known architect Frank Gehry has had a troubled history. Gehry’s first renderings were criticized by the Eisenhower family for placing too much emphasis on his Kansas upbringing and not enough on his heroic leadership in World War II and in the White House.
Even after revisions, Gehry’s plan, which included statues of Eisenhower framed by large metal tapestries depicting his boyhood in Kansas, continued to draw criticism from the family. In 2012, John Eisenhower, the president’s son who died last year, said the family believed the design “attempts to do too much,” and, with its estimated $142 million price tag, was “too extravagant.”
It’s true that Ike probably would be embarrassed not only by the cost of the memorial but by the controversy it has triggered. The latest objections from the D.C. planning group focus on the scale of the monument, especially the large columns that would hold the stainless steel tapestries and potentially hamper views of the nearby U.S. Capitol building.
It’s important to get this project right, but it’s also important to get it done. Private fundraising will be a key part of financing the memorial and that will become more and more difficult as the number of people who actually knew Eisenhower declines.
It’s probably too late to start over on this star-crossed project, but we hope the Eisenhower family and the capitol planners soon will be able to agree on a suitable monument to honor a favorite son of Kansas.