Military Wiki
Memorial Amphitheater
[[File:{{{image_name}}}|240x240px|Aerial view looking southeast at Memorial Amphitheater]]
Aerial view looking southeast at Memorial Amphitheater
Location Arlington County, Virginia
Coordinates 38°52′N 77°4′W / 38.867°N 77.067°W / 38.867; -77.067Coordinates: 38°52′N 77°4′W / 38.867°N 77.067°W / 38.867; -77.067
Governing body U.S. Department of the Army
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Memorial Amphitheater is an outdoor amphitheater, exhibit hall, and nonsectarian chapel located in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, in the United States. Designed in 1913 as a replacement for the older, wooden amphitheater near Arlington House, ground was broken for its construction in March 1915 and it was dedicated in May 1920. In the center of its eastern steps is the Tomb of the Unknowns, dedicated in 1921. It has served as the site for numerous Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, as well as for memorial services and funerals for many individuals.

Building the amphitheater

The Old Amphitheater, whose small size, rustic nature, and connection to the Civil War prompted construction of Memorial Amphitheater.

Genesis of the amphitheater

Arlington National Cemetery was established in 1863. Due to the growing importance of the cemetery as well as the much larger crowds attending Memorial Day observances, Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs (who was Quartermaster General of the United States Army) decided a formal meeting space at the cemetery was needed.[1] A grove of close-growing trees just southwest of Arlington House Grove was cut down and a wooden amphitheater (today known as the Tanner Amphitheater) constructed in 1874.[2]

By the early years of the 1900s, however, the Old Amphitheater had grown far too small for the large ceremonies which where held there. Judge Ivory Kimball, Commander of the Department of the Potomac chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (or GAR, a veterans' group for those who fought for the Union in the Civil War), believed that not only should a new and larger facility be built, but also that the new amphitheater represent the dead of all wars in which the nation had fought.[3] Kimball and the GAR began their push for a new amphitheater in 1903, and sketches for the amphitheater drawn up by Frederick D. Owen, a civilian engineer working for the United States Army Corps of Engineers.[4] But legislation failed to pass Congress in 1905, 1907,and 1908.[5] Legislation passed in 1908 authorizing the establishment of a memorial commission, but it received only $5,000 in funding.[6] Legislation was introduced again in 1912 by Senator George Sutherland. Sutherland's bill proposed construction of a 5,000-seat amphitheater with an underground crypt (for the burial of famous individuals) to cost no more than $750,000.[7] Prospects for passage initially seemed dim. But during the third session of the 62nd Congress, a number of new federal memorials were approved, including the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial, a memorial to women who served in the Civil War (now the American Red Cross National Headquarters), and a George Washington memorial auditorium.[8] The successful push for new memorials helped supporters win the passage of legislation authorizing construction of Memorial Amphitheater.[9] President William Howard Taft, in one of his last acts as president, signed the legislation into law on March 4, 1913.[10]

Judge Ivory G. Kimball, a primary backer of the new amphitheater, in 1909.

The 1908 authorizing legislation established an Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission (AMAC) to oversee the design and construction of the structure. Its members included the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, the Superintendent of the U.S. Capitol, Judge Kimball (as a representative of the GAR), and Charles W. Newton (as a representative of the United Spanish War Veterans, a Spanish–American War veterans group).[11]

It immediately became apparent, however, that although Congress had authorized the expenditure of $250,000 for Memorial Amphitheater, it had not actually appropriated any such funds from the U.S. Treasury. This left the AMAC without any funds to conduct its business.[12] It was not until August 1, 1914, that Congress finally appropriated money for the amphitheater's construction.[13] Ten days later, Colonel William W. Harts of the United States Army Corps of Engineers was elected the commission's executive director. On October 12, 1914, the AMAC contracted with the New York-based architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings to design the building. The AMAC hired the George A. Fuller Co. to construct it on February 11, 1915.[14][15]

There is some disagreement among sources as to who should receive the majority of credit for designing Memorial Amphitheater. Lemos, Morrison, Warren, and Hewitt specifically name Thomas Hastings,[16] as does the United States Commission of Fine Arts[17] and others.[18] But other sources name Frederick D. Owen, a civilian engineer working for the Corps of Engineers (and who also designed the Flag of the President of the United States). Owen is named by architectural historians Butler and Wilson and by historian Rick Atkinson.[19][20] The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission is not clear as to who deserves the credit, as it notes that Owen "drew the first sketches for plans for the great Memorial in 1904"[21] and later gave "suggestions and advice as to the form of the Memorial".[22] Owen's significant role is made clear by the AMAC in other ways as well: He designed the memorial trowel used by President Woodrow Wilson to lay the cornerstone;[21] he served on the reception committee for the cornerstone laying ceremony;[23] he co-chaired the planning committee for the 1921 dedication;[24] and he chaired the reception committee for the dedication.[25] But the AMAC also said Carrère and Hastings prepared the plans for the building,[26] provided the explanation of the design to the AMAC,[27] and was named by Congress as the architects.[28]

The AMAC's composition changed somewhat after Congress amended the commission's authorizing legislation on March 3, 1915. Congress added the leader of Camp 171, United Confederate Veterans of the District of Columbia, to the commission as a full voting member.[14]

Construction of the amphitheater

Construction begins on Memorial Amphitheater in 1916.

The site chosen for the new Memorial Amphitheater was the top of a hill about 1,000 feet (300 m) south of Arlington House. A gravel pit, opened in the mid-1800s, existed there previously.[29]

Ground for Memorial Amphitheater was broken on March 1, 1915.[14] President Woodrow Wilson laid its cornerstone in a ceremony on October 13, 1915.[30] A copper box placed in a hollowed out section of the cornerstone contained a copy of the United States Constitution, a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence, the Bible, the flag of the United States, one each of every coin and postage stamp then in circulation, a Congressional directory, a telephone directory of the District of Columbia, an autographed photograph of President Wilson, and several items connected with Arlington National Cemetery.[9] Kimball participated in the ground-breaking and cornerstone ceremonies, but did not live to see the amphitheater completed: He died on May 15, 1916.[31]

Excavation of the foundation was complete by the end of June 1915. Concrete foundations had also been laid and cured, and most of the brick foundation was in place as well.[14] Most of the amphitheater's foundation was complete by June 30, 1916. The foundation included 629,000 bricks, 24 short tons (22 t) of structural steel, and 21,644 cubic yards (16,548 m3) of marble (for the exterior of the structure). The Guastavino tile system, patented in 1885, was used to create arches and vaults in the basement. More than 2,500 square feet (230 m2) of this tile were used. The heating, clean water, and sewage systems were also complete. The Corps of Engineers also finished the architectural drawings for the approaches around the amphitheater as well, and was ready to start work on them.[32]

A major design changed also occurred in June 1915. Originally, plans for the amphitheater called for wooden balustrades, plaster moldings, cement floors and ceilings, and wooden doors. But on June 26, all of these materials were changed to marble. The total cost of the changed was $41,000.[33]

Work on the amphitheater slowed in mid-1916 and throughout 1917 due to a lack of high quality marble available for the work. Severe winter weather also meant that work on the approaches did not begin until late June 1917. The amphitheater was supposed to have neared completion on February 15, 1917, but these lengthy delays meant that the construction schedule was extended for a full year.[34] The amphitheater was also proving to be much more costly than expected. Bids from contractors were all far above what the Corps of Engineers expected, but work went ahead anyway.[35] By June 30, 1917, much of the amphitheater and its colonnade were done. Another 35,140 cubic feet (995 m3) of marble had been placed for the columns, and 11,856 cubic feet (335.7 m3) of concrete and 26 short tons (24 t) of structural steel were used to support them. Skylights and ornamental ironwork stairs were in place, and ornamental plastering and marble carving had begun.[36]

Memorial Amphitheater under construction in 1917.

The amphitheater, chapel, and most of the entrance hall were finished in 1918. The entrance hall was built with red brick (257,100 of them), and clad in 57,711 cubic feet (1,634.2 m3) of marble. Another in 1,060 cubic feet (30 m3) of marble were used for interior columns. The extent to which marble was used was eye-opening: 4,790 square feet (445 m2) for flooring, 4,694 square feet (436.1 m2) for stairs, 1,272 square feet (118.2 m2) for door and window frames, and 2,033 feet (620 m) of moldings. The eastern steps consumed 4,526 square feet (420.5 m2) of concrete. The interior was decorated with ornamental plaster, terra cotta partitions, terrazzo flooring, bronze doors and grillwork, ornamental ironwork railings and stairs, and glazed tile.[37] While more than $7,000 ($161,500 in 2013 inflation-adjusted U.S. dollars) was spent on carving for the amphitheater,[34] just $2,933 was spent for carving on the inside and outside of the entrance hall.[37]

The advent of World War I had a significant impact on the construction of Memorial Amphitheater. The United States entered the war in April 1917, and by spring 1918 American troops were arriving in Europe. Most skilled workers were diverted to the war effort, although artisans (such as marble carvers) were still available. The Corps of Engineers was able to obtain, after lengthy delays, the high-quality marble it needed for the approaches from the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.[37][38] But railroads and cargo ships were so congested carrying war materiél and military personnel that the marble could not be transported to Arlington National Cemetery until late 1917. By then, another severe winter had set in. Intensely cold weather continued into the late spring, further delaying work. Only a limited amount of work on the approaches had concluded by the end of June 1918.[37] Some modifications were also made to the structure because of the war. The largest of these changes eliminated the seating planned for the top of the colonnade.[39] By June 1918, nearly all of Memorial Amphitheater's exterior was complete. The interior work on the chapel and the first-floor reception hall was also done, leaving only the basement-level kitchen storage areas and the second-floor offices to be worked on. Construction of the concrete floor of the amphitheater also was under way.[39]

Construction progress on Memorial Amphitheater in June 1918.

Interior work on Memorial Amphitheater ended in June 1919. The remainder of the basement rooms and all of the second floor were now finished, too. All that remained to be done was decoration of the chapel ceiling, some interior and exterior inscriptions, and installation of lighting fixtures. The Corps of Engineers was also ready to connect the water and sewer lines, grade the grounds and roads, and install plantings and sod.[40] During the next nine months, these items were all finished, and the interior painted. The masonry approaches were also completed, and the roadways and sidewalks paved.[41] The G.B. Mullin Co. did the landscape design and work, which involved replanting 20 cedar trees around the three amphitheater entrances.[42] The total cost of the structure and its grounds was $810,812.[41] In total, 87,000 cubic feet (2,500 m3) of Mountain White marble from the Danby quarries of Vermont were used in its construction.[43]

Memorial Amphitheater was dedicated on May 15, 1920.[44] The Corps of Engineers turned it over to the Quartermaster General's office on July 1.[41]

About Memorial Amphitheater

Apse, three-level stage, and klismos chair in the amphitheater.

Memorial Amphitheater was designed by Thomas Hastings to be the center of a biaxial grouping of landscape features and monuments that included the USS Maine Mast Memorial in the west, the Spanish–American War Memorial to the south, and a formal Italianate garden to the east.[45] Greek Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Renaissance decorative elements are used throughout the structure.[16] Ulysses Ricci designed the various friezes, ornamental devices, and decorative elements of the amphitheater and entrance hall.[42] Hastings said he wanted Memorial Amphitheater to be the building he was most remembered by.[16]

As constructed, Memorial Amphitheater consisted of an elliptical outdoor amphitheater that sat 4,000.[41] The bays formed by the colonnade can seat another 150 individuals.[46] Another 1,000 individuals may be accommodated by standing.[38] The amphitheater is surrounded by a colonnade, with main entrances at the east and west axes.[41] The capitals of the columns are Doric,[19] but rest on an Attic base.[16] The entablature above the columns, however, is Ionic to allow for inscriptions. These inscriptions, on the exterior of the entablature, list 44 major battles from the American Revolutionary War through the Spanish–American War.[16][38] Low, backless marble benches in concentric circles face the semi-circular main stage, which has three levels.[47][48] The lowest level features a klismos, a form of ancient Greek informal chair meant for rulers. The klismos chair faces the audience, much as a cathedra (or bishop's chair) does. Hastings intended the klismos chair to remind the audience of the missing heroes honored by the amphitheater.[47] The second level of the stage has a podium. The stage and amphitheater are designed so that any speaker must look down at the klismos chair while addressing the audience, and must look at the USS Maine Mast Memorial if looking up.[49] The third and uppermost level of the stage contains a semi-circular seating area for about 100 people and an apse in the back. The interior dome of the apse is richly carved, and the square pilasters on either side of the stage list the names of famous American generals (left, as you face the stage) and admirals (right) from the American Revolutionary War through the Spanish-American War.[48] A quote from General George Washington's June 26, 1775, letter to the Continental Congress is inscribed inside the apse: "When we assumed the soldier we did not lay aside the citizen."[50] A quote from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is inscribed above the stage: "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."[51] Decorative 9-foot (2.7 m) tall urns carved with eagles, rams' heads, and snakes were placed on pedestals in niches on either side of the stage.[51]

Standing in the south gallery of the entrance hall, looking north. The main doors are to the right.

Above the west entrance of the amphitheater is a quote from the Roman poet Horace: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" ("It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country").[50] Under the colonnade are 300 crypts, which were intended for the burial of important people.[38][41]

In the basement (or ground floor, if approached from the west) beneath the amphitheater stage is a chapel. This domed structure was designed to seat 150, and has a raised ambulatory around the edges.[48]

As originally designed, the main entrance was in the east through the doors of the cruciform entrance hall.[41][45] The entrance hall is fronted by a six-columned portico with Corinthian capitals.[45] A frieze above the main bronze doors depicts symbolic trophies of war.[52] The entrance hall is not connected internally with the amphitheater.[53] Stairways, bridges, and short corridors on the outside of the entrance hall provide access to the stage in the amphitheater.[48] The main floor of the reception hall is clad in Botticino marble.[38] The main floor originally housed a reception hall (with two side galleries for the display of battle flags and war trophies) and stage, and the second floor housed a museum.[41][48] In 1929, the main floor became a Memorial Exhibit Hall displaying honors received by the unknown soldiers lying beneath the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the second floor became offices.[54]

Steps lead from the main doors of the entrance hall down to a small plaza. Hastings designed a series of short steps to lead from the plaza down to a landing, and then a series of monumental steps to lead from the landing to the eastern formal garden below. In the center of the short steps was a pedestal for a statue. No artwork was ever placed there. This pedestal was later removed, and the Tomb of the Unknowns took its place in 1921.[16] The planned monumental steps leading down to the formal garden were not built when Memorial Amphitheater was dedicated. A retaining wall with false arches was constructed instead.[45]

A roadway was designed to cross the plaza and circle the entire structure.[52]

History of Memorial Amphitheater

Memorial Amphitheater after its completion in 1921.

Construction of the monumental stairs

On March 4, 1921, the Congress approved the construction of a memorial to an unidentified American serviceman from World War I to be placed in the stairs leading up from the east landing to the plaza in front of Memorial Amphitheater. An unknown soldier was identified and brought back from France, and interred inside a small marble tomb on Armistice Day on November 11, 1921. To construct the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (as it was then informally called), the pedestal for the memorial statue envisioned in Hastings' design was removed. Workers dug 20 feet (6.1 m) down into the earth behind the retaining wall. At this level, concrete footings 16 feet 2 inches (4.93 m) long by 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) wide were constructed. The earthen walls were reinforced with a burial vault consisting of concrete walls 7 feet (2.1 m) thick at the bottom, narrowing to just 2 feet 4 inches (0.71 m) thick at the top. A hollow rectangular plinth was constructed on top of the vault walls, above which was a slightly smaller hollow marble base. On top of the marble base was a rectangular capstone with curved sides, which was also pierced through the center. A 2-inch (5.1 cm) deep layer of soil brought from France along with the unknown soldier's body lined the bottom of the burial vault. After the unknown soldier was lowered into the vault and rested on the soil below, the capstone was sealed with a marble lid.[55]

Additional changes to the east front came within just a few years. On July 3, 1926, Congress authorized the completion of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an appropriate memorial. A design by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones was selected on December 10, 1928.[56] The Lorimer/Hudson design, like nearly all the other submissions, anticipated removing the retaining wall below the tomb and building the monumental staircase first envisioned by Thomas Hastings. Congress agreed with this revision, and on February 28, 1929, authorized construction of the stairs, new road and pedestrian approaches, alterations to the formal gardens, and a new overlook.[57] The Construction Division of the Quartermaster General's office oversaw the work, which was performed by the Hegman-Harris Company of New York City.[58]

1956 renovation and expansion of the tomb

Looking west across the Italianate formal garden at Memorial Amphitheater. The monumental steps were constructed as part of the Tomb of the Unknowns between 1929 and 1932, and the central roadway removed.

Little additional work was done at Memorial Amphitheater until 1954. By then, settling of the amphitheater and entrance hall, cracking of walls and exterior marble, water damage, and other serious problems were beginning to affect the structure. Congress appropriated $15,000 for fiscal 1954 (which began June 30, 1953) for a year-long study of the problems. A preliminary estimate indicated that repairs would cost $179,000. But the finished study identified even more serious issues, almost all of which were caused by design deficiencies which did not take into account the seasonal expansion and contraction of the building's marble. Arlington National Cemetery officials were forced to ask Congress for $447,000 to repair the amphitheater and $179,000 to repair the entrance building. Congress approved the request.[59][60]

A second major change was made to the plaza in 1958. President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation in August 1956 to allow the interment of unidentified remains for soldiers from World War II and the Korean War at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Two new burial vaults, to the northwest and southwest, were dug in the plaza before the eastern entrance hall.[61] Carved into the granite in front of the tomb sarcophagus were the dates "1917-1918".[62] The Korean War unknown was interred in the northwest vault beneath a slab with the dates "1950-1953" carved into its western edge. The World War II unknown was interred in the southwest vault beneath a slab with the dates "1941-1945" carved into its western edge.[63] The cover slabs of both new vaults were flush with the plaza.[64] The two unknowns were interred on Memorial Day on May 30, 1958.[65]

In August, 1960, Congress abolished the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission and transferred its duties to the Secretary of Defense. Although the commission had long ago fulfilled its basic mission of construction Memorial Amphitheater, it still had the legal authority to approve the placement of plaques, markers, and other commemorations on the inside, on the exterior, or on the grounds of the structure.[66]

On May 24, 1964, Memorial Amphitheater was the site of a late-afternoon ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Arlington National Cemetery.[67] Six years later, in 1970, the American Legion donated an exterior lighting system so that Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns could remain lit at night.[68]

1974 renovation

Additional physical plant problems appeared at Memorial Amphitheater in 1965. The retaining walls adjacent to the east plaza began cracking vertically, and extensive horizontal cracks and spalling were found on the Tomb of the Unknowns as well. Additional damage occurred over the next five years. Congress then appropriated $522,000 in fiscal year 1972 to repair these problems as well as provide yet another renovation of the exhibit hall. By this time, attendance at Arlington National Cemetery had soared with the construction of the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame in 1967 and the addition of the grave of Robert F. Kennedy in 1971. To accommodate the much larger crowds wishing to see the Tomb of the Unknowns, Congress appropriated an additional $478,000 in fiscal 1972 to widen pedestrian walkway approaches to accommodate the larger crowds. To make Memorial Amphitheater more accessible for the disabled, steep slopes around the structure were eliminated and steps were replaced with ramps.[59] Congress appropriated an additional $3 million in 1974, to bring the construction project's total to $4 million. The extra funds paid for widening of the steps and portico in front of the east entrance — increasing the number of people who could view the changing of the guard at the tomb to 800 individuals from 200. In addition, the tomb honor guard received new guard posts on the plaza in front of the amphitheater.[68]

The mid-1970s widening of the Memorial Amphitheater portico, reconstruction of the pedestrian approaches, and repairs to the plaza around the Tomb of the Unknowns represented the first major construction at the site since 1920.[68]

Dedications and adding memorials

An attempt to dedicate the chapel at Memorial Amphitheater occurred in 1977. The National Cemetery Act of 1973 required the Secretary of Defense to locate unidentified remains of a Vietnam War veteran, construct a vault for these remains at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and inter the remains there. The vault was constructed between the World War II and Korean War vaults on the plaza, and a marble slab with the word "VIETNAM" inscribed on it placed over the empty burial shaft. By 1977, many remains had been located, but all of them were subsequently identified. Vietnam veterans and their supporters, concerned that no unidentified remains would ever be located, pushed to have the chapel in Memorial Amphitheater dedicated to veterans who served in Southeast Asia from 1958 to 1975. Legislation to require the change was introduced in Congress, but most legislators felt that if the chapel were to be dedicated it should be to all veterans. The legislation did not pass, and the chapel remained nameless.[69]

On Veterans Day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter dedicated a plaque inside the exhibit hall which honored Vietnam War veterans.[70] Two temporary plaques in the exhibit hall were dedicated by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger on Memorial Day in 1983. One plaque commemorated military personnel who died in the Vietnam War, and the second explained why no Vietnam War unknown had been interred at the Tomb of the Unknowns.[71]

1995–1996 renovations and controversy

A replacement urn on the south side of the stage in Memorial Amphitheater. The original urns were removed in 1996 and made their way into private hands; they were returned in 2011.

Extensive additional renovations in the amphitheater were made in the mid-1990s. Congress appropriated $4.82 million in fiscal 1992 to repair rainwater damage and fix leaks, and an additional $4.5 million in fiscal 1993 to restore damaged marble. Although the project was planned for completion in July 1995, a six-month delay occurred because of protests regarding the way the contracts were awarded.[72] Bids for the project came in much lower than anticipated, creating $2.7 million in savings.[73] The Army used $34,405 to make whole the bidder who had protested the improper contract award.[74] About $1.4 million of these savings were used to build new wheelchair access ramps and improve access to the amphitheater for handicapped or disabled individuals. The remaining $1.3 million were used to build a columbarium at the cemetery.[73] The repairs included installation of new waterproof membranes; removing water and rust stains; patching and repainting cement, marble, and stone; replacement of all deteriorated marble sculptures, balusters, and benches; replacement of worn and rusted iron railings and drinking fountains; replacement of worn and broken flagstone walkways; and installation of new and upgraded signage and trash containers. These repairs and improvements were almost complete by the end of March 1996.[74]

Clark Construction Group, which was the general contractor for these renovations, received an Excellence in Construction Award from the D.C./Virginia chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors for the outstanding quality of its work.[75]

Controversy about the renovation erupted in January 2011, however, when original decorative urns from the 1995–1996 renovation turned up at auction. The two 9-foot (2.7 m) tall urns, sculpted by Ulysses Ricci, formerly stood on either side of the stage in the amphitheater.[51] By 1995, they had significantly weathered and many details had softened so much as to be unrecognizable.[76] Omni Construction, one of Clark Construction's subcontractors, was assigned to dispose of the urns. Omni turned the urns over to Pagliaro Brothers Stone of Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Pagliaro Brothers Stone said they did not have records about the urns' ultimate fate, but in 1997 the urns ended up in the hands of an unidentified antiques dealer. The dealer sold them to DHS Designs, an antique shop in Queenstown, Maryland. The urns (priced at $125,000) never sold, and in 2010 the owner of DHS Designs closed his store and put the urns up for auction. Potomack Company, the Alexandria, Virginia, auction house assigned to handle the urns, advertised them in December 2010—which brought the urns to the attention of preservationists in the D.C. area. According to unnamed preservationist experts interviewed by the Washington Post, the historic urns should have been restored or placed in a museum—not donated to private owners for sale. The U.S. Army, which manages Arlington National Cemetery, said it could not find the 1995 renovation contract and was unable to say what provisions for the urns' disposal had been made nor whether federal property and preservation agencies had been consulted before the urns were replaced.[51]

Within a week of press reports about the sale, Arlington National Cemetery officials said that Clark Construction had been instructed to preserve the urns. These instructions met the requirements of Virginia law, which forbade the discard of historic artifacts. Alerted to the sale by the Washington Post, the Army asked Potomack Company to postpone the sale pending investigation of ownership.[76]

On January 24, 2011, DHS Designs returned the urns at no cost to Arlington National Cemetery. The Army did not say whether it would display the urns at the cemetery or move them to another Army museum.[76]

2012 renovation

In 1999, moisture damage to the ceiling in the Memorial Amphitheater chapel wore away a hole, which allowed water to begin dripping into the chapel.[77]

The plaza of Memorial Amphitheater was altered once more in 1999. The unidentified remains of a Vietnam War servicemember were interred in the Vietnam War vault at the Tomb of the Unknowns on May 28, 1984. But questions were raised in 1994 that indicated the Army (under pressure from the Reagan administration to placate veterans' groups by finding a Vietnam War unknown) ignored evidence that the remains could be identified. After extensive media attention, the Vietnam War unknown was exhumed from the Tomb of the Unknowns on May 14, 1998. DNA testing revealed on June 30, 1998, that the remains were those of United States Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael Blassie. On September 16, 1999, the marble slab over the now-empty burial vault was replaced by a new slab in a ceremony overseen by Secretary of Defense William Cohen. The new slab was inscribed with the words "Honoring and Keeping Faith with America's Missing Servicemen." Department of Defense officials decided to replace the old slab with a new one given how unlikely it was that unidentified Vietnam War remains would ever be found. Covering the vault to make it appear as if it did not exist was rejected.[78]

By 2000, the east entrance hall at Memorial Amphitheater was suffering water damage and other problems yet again. Congress appropriated $800,000 in fiscal year 2001 to identify what fixes might be needed.[79] Repairs were made in 2006, which included ameliorating water damage in the basement, first floor, and second floor; repairing and improving roof and exterior drainage; and installing new waterproofing and drains to prevent flooding in the basement women's restroom and chapel.[80]

Additional repairs to the walkways around Memorial Amphitheater were made in 2012. In the wake of the Arlington National Cemetery mismanagement controversy of 2008-2011, Arlington National Cemetery officials discovered that more than $32.6 million in funds for cemetery improvements, maintenance, and operations had gone unspent. A portion of these funds were used to replace approximately 230,000 square feet (21,000 m2) of the flagstone walkway around Memorial Amphitheater and to replace fire alarm systems in the east entrance hall.[81]

Famous funerals and services at the amphitheater

Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, lies in state in 2011 in the chapel beneath the amphitheater.

Memorial Amphitheater has been the site of numerous Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Every American President except Woodrow Wilson has visited the building since it was dedicated in 1921.[82] Although the structure was dedicated during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, Wilson suffered a massive stroke on October 2, 1919, from which he never recovered. He never visited Memorial Amphitheater or the Tomb of the Unknowns during the remainder of his presidency, or his life. (Wilson died on February 3, 1924.) President Warren G. Harding was the first sitting president to visit Memorial Amphitheater, which he did on Memorial Day on May 30, 1921.[83] President Harding was the first President to visit the Tomb of the Unknowns, as he was present during its dedication in November 1921.[84] Harding was also the first president to speak in the Memorial Amphitheater before laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which he did on Memorial Day on May 30, 1923.[85] Harding attended a service in the amphitheater on Memorial Day in May 1922, but did not speak or lay a wreath.[86] He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Veterans Day in November 1922, but did not speak in the amphitheater.[87]

While memorial services in Memorial Amphitheater are common, the amphitheater has also hosted the funerals of many famous Americans. The first funeral to be held in the amphitheater was that of Moses Jacob Ezekiel, the artist who sculpted the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.[88] Other funerals held in the amphitheater since then include those of General of the Armies John J. "Black Jack" Pershing,[89] General of the Air Force Henry H. "Hap" Arnold,[90] Secretary of Defense James Forrestal,[91] and Antarctic explorer and Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.[92] A funeral service for the unidentified remains of 30 victims of the September 11 attacks on The Pentagon was held at Memorial Amphitheater in 2002. It was the first time the amphitheater had held such a service since the interment of an unknown member of the armed forces representing Vietnam War dead in 1984.[93]

Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I, lay in state in the Memorial Amphitheater Chapel in 2011.[94]

An Easter sunrise service has been held at Memorial Amphitheater every year since 1931. The first such service was held in 1931 and organized by the Knights Templar, a group of Freemasons. Music was provided by the United States Marine Band.[95] President Herbert Hoover attended the service, along with several thousand people.[96] Along with Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, it is one of the annual and most well-attended events in the amphitheater.[97]

See also

  • List of contemporary amphitheatres


  1. Cultural Landscape Program, p. 107-108. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  2. Cultural Landscape Program, p. 108. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  3. Peters, p. 243-244.
  4. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 8, 22.
  5. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 8; "Plan New Memorial." Washington Post. February 11, 1908; "Urge Arlington Building." Washington Post. March 21, 1908.
  6. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 9–10.
  7. "Favor Big Memorial." Washington Post. March 30, 1912; "Blocks Big Memorial." Washington Post. May 8, 1912.
  8. "Agrees on Memorial." Washington Post. January 30, 1913; "Orders Big Buildings." Washington Post. February 22, 1913.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Corfield, p. 80.
  10. "District Saves Bill." Washington Post. March 5, 1913.
  11. War Department Annual Reports, 1915, p. 1683. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  12. "Memorial Plan Hitch." Washington Post. July 10, 1913.
  13. "Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, Deficiency," Document No. 1732, House Documents, Volume 116, p. 2. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 War Department Annual Reports, 1915, p. 1684. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  15. The AMAC final report claims that Carrère and Hastings drew up plans for the memorial in 1908, that these were approved by the commission, and that the commission submitted them to Congress on February 15, 1909. The report does not say a contract was signed, however. The commission's final report notes that it was not until 1913 that Congress authorized a contract with Carrère and Hastings "for their full professional services". See: Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 11–12.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Lemos, et al., p. 251.
  17. Commission of Fine Arts, p. 69.
  18. Dickon, p. 75; Marter, p. 410.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Butler and Wilson, p. 48.
  20. Atkinson, p. 41.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 22.
  22. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 7.
  23. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 23.
  24. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 47.
  25. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 60.
  26. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 10.
  27. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 11.
  28. Arlington Memorial Amphitheater Commission, p. 12.
  29. Cultural Landscape Program, p. 130.
  30. "President Lays Stone." Washington Post. October 14, 1915.
  31. "Mourn Judge Kimball." Washington Post. May 16, 1916.
  32. War Department Annual Reports, 1916, p. 1807.
  33. "Spending More at Arlington." Washington Post. June 27, 1915.
  34. 34.0 34.1 War Department Annual Reports, 1917, p. 3728. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  35. War Department Annual Reports, 1917, p. 3726, 3728. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  36. War Department Annual Reports, 1917, p. 3726. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 War Department Annual Reports, 1918, p. 3803. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 "The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater," p. 96. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Baltimore District, Army Corps of Engineers, 1918, p. 1944. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  40. War Department Annual Reports, 1919, p. 2058. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 41.5 41.6 41.7 Baltimore District, Army Corps of Engineers, 1920, p. 2045-2046. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  42. 42.0 42.1 War Department Annual Reports, 1919, p. 3850. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  43. Miglorie, p. 115.
  44. "Army and Navy Chiefs and Veterans' Representatives Dedicate Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington Cemetery." Washington Post. May 16, 1920.
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 Lemos, et al., p. 248.
  46. "The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater," p. 94, 96. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  47. 47.0 47.1 Lemos, et al., p. 249.
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 48.3 48.4 "The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater," p. 94. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  49. Lemos, et al., p. 250-251.
  50. 50.0 50.1 "Memorial Amphitheater." Arlington National Cemetery. No date. Accessed 2013-05-15.
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 Davenport, Christian. "Arlington Cemetery Urns Turn Up on Auction Block, But How'd They Get There?" Washington Post. January 23, 2011.
  52. 52.0 52.1 "The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater," p. 91. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  53. Lemos, et al., p. 248–249.
  54. "Trophies to Be Moved in Arlington Cemetery." New York Times. July 17, 1929.
  55. Arlington National Cemetery. "Arlington National Cemetery Tomb of the Unknowns Monument Repair or Replacement Project." Draft paper. June 1, 2006, p. 2. Accessed 2013-05-14.
  56. "Awaits Appropriation by Congress to Complete National Shrine." Washington Post. December 11, 1928.
  57. Subcommittee on Cemeteries and Burial Benefits, p. 3262.
  58. Neil, Donald R. "Nature Honors the Unknown Soldier." The Quartermaster Review. January-February 1932. Accessed 2013-05-14.
  59. 59.0 59.1 Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, p. 2303.
  60. "House Approves Peace Cross Funds." Washington Post. June 17, 1955.
  61. "2 Unknown Soldiers Join Comrade in May." United Press International. November 8, 1957.
  62. White, Jean. "'Unknowns' Laid to Rest In Arlington." Washington Post. May 31, 1958.
  63. Duffus, R.L. "The Three 'Known But to God'." New York Times. May 25, 1958.
  64. "2 More War Dead to Be Enshrined." United Press International. November 10, 1957.
  65. Raymond, Jack (May 31, 1958). "Unknowns of World War II and Korea Are Enshrined". The New York Times. p. 1. 
  66. "House Unit Clears Harpers Ferry Bill." Washington Post. June 23, 1960; Carberry, James. "Bill to Tighten Relief Passes Senate." Washington Post. June 29, 1960; "Transfer Bill Passed." Washington Post. August 24, 1960.
  67. "Cemetery's Centennial Slated Today." Washington Post. May 24, 1964.
  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 "Renovations at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery." American Legion Magazine. September 1975, p. 25.
  69. Subcommittee on Cemeteries and Burial Benefits, p. 29.
  70. Subcommittee on Compensation, Pension, Insurance, and Memorial Affairs, p. 250.
  71. "Washington News." United Press International. April 18, 1983.
  72. Dola, p. 112.
  73. 73.0 73.1 Zirschky, p. 10–11.
  74. 74.0 74.1 Lancaster, p. 53.
  75. "Annual Awards Presented to Builders, Contractors." Richmond Times Dispatch. September 29, 1996.
  76. 76.0 76.1 76.2 Davenport, Christian. "Arlington Cemetery Urns to Be Returned Instead of Auctioned." Washington Post. January 25, 2011.
  77. Wee, Eric L. "Decay at Arlington Cemetery Dismays Lawmakers." Washington Post. May 21, 1999.
  78. Burns, Robert. "Cohen Dedicates New Inscription on Tomb of Vietnam Unknown." Associated Press. September 17, 1999.
  79. Westphal, p. 68.
  80. Metzler, p. 32.
  81. Condon, p. 6. Accessed 2013-05-14.
  82. "Capital Today Pays Tribue of Love to Dead of 3 Wars." Washington Post. May 30, 1924; "Program on Memorial Day to Be Observed in Capital." Washington Post. May 30, 1929; "Armistice Day Rites to Be Led By Roosevelt." Washington Post. November 11, 1935; "Truman Talk Tops Plans for Armistice Day." Washington Post. November 8, 1946; Casey, Phil. "U.S. Ready to Face War, JFK Warns." Washington Post. November 12, 1961; Clopton, Willard. "Traffic Lights Here Go on Blink As City Has Quiet Memorial Day." Washington Post. May 31, 1966; Kiernan, Laura A. "Ford Pledges 70,000 Jobs For Veterans." Washington Post. October 29, 1974; Mansfield, Stephanie. "Veterans Day." Washington Post. November 12, 1978; Denton, Herbert H. "Reagan: Arms Reduction Talks Open June 29." Washington Post. June 1, 1982; Jordan, Mary. "A Capital Thank-You." Washington Post. June 9, 1991; Adams, Lorraine. "Clinton Hails D-Day On Memorial Day." Washington Post. May 31, 1994; Masters, Brooke A. and Jenkins, Chris L. "A Day for Reflection, Festivities." Washington Post. May 29, 2001; Turque, Bill. "A Day to Salute 'the Best of America'." Washington Post. May 26, 2009. It is not clear that President Richard Nixon entered the amphitheater or entrance hall during his visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns in November 1971. See: "President, at Arlington, Honors Dead of All Wars." Washington Post. November 12, 1971.
  83. "First Duty of National Is to Its Own, Harding Declares at Arlington." Washington Post. May 31, 1921.
  84. Price, Harry N. "End All War, Pleads Harding Over Tomb." Washington Post. November 12, 1921.
  85. Price, Harry N. "Stand Against War Urged By President." Washington Post. May 31, 1923.
  86. "Harding Leads in Tribute to Heroes at Arlington." Washington Post. May 31, 1922.
  87. "Cites Duty to World." Washington Post. November 11, 1922.
  88. Ben-Rubin, Jack. "Soldier-Sculptor Moses Ezekiel's Art Transcended War." Washington Times. May 16, 1992.
  89. Mossman and Stark, p. 28.
  90. "Arnold's Body Lies in State, Burial Today." Washington Post. January 19, 1950.
  91. Mossman and Stark, p. 45.
  92. Mossman and Stark, p. 89.
  93. Vogel, Steve. "Facing the Scene of Disaster." Washington Post. September 1, 2002.
  94. "Frank Buckles, Last U.S. WWI Vet, Laid to Rest." Air Force Times. March 15, 2011. Accessed 2013-05-13.
  95. "Sunrise Services Planned on Easter." Washington Post. March 28, 1931.
  96. "Hoovers Greet Easter Crowd." Washington Post. April 4, 1931.
  97. Fodor's 2013 Washington, D.C., p. 139.


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