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America's Front Yard



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Then and Now
Photograph courtesy National Archives

In the early 1900s the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (top, at center), overlooked the still evolving National Mall, its spacious grounds laced with Victorian carriage paths. Since then the Mall has grown to be the cultural backbone of the nation's capital, flanked by the art galleries and museums of the Smithsonian Institution (bottom). Over the years the Mall evolved into a multipurpose park: parade ground and playground, a place for protest marches, celebrations, and remembrance. This prime public space also became the venue of choice for monuments. The location of the new National World War II Memorial—to be dedicated on May 29 during Memorial Day weekend—was fought by those who seek to keep the center of the Mall an emphatically open space, symbolic of democracy. They lost the fight, but more battles are sure to come.




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