Comments: Monuments (Editorial by The Wall Street Journal)

Talk about closing the barn door. Officials in Washington have finally decided the National Mall is full. Last week a Joint Task Force on Memorials recommended that no more statues, walls, busts, com-plexes or other commemorative structures be erected there. The aim is to preserve its “sweeping vistas and reciprocal views.”

Composed of members of the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Capital Memorial Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts, all of which review monument proposals, the task force pro-posed that a T-shaped area stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and from the White House to the Tidal Basin be designated as “The Reserve,” and placed off-limits to future monuments. An area surrounding it and including Theodore Roosevelt Island and a strip of riverside land near Arlington National Cemetery is to be designated “Area A” and restricted to memorials “of pre-eminent significance.” The rest of the District is eligible for memorials of “lasting historical significance.” No word yet on exactly how those two categories are to be defined.

Welcome news, considering there are now 28 memorials of one kind or another in “The Reserve,” with one more to come. If approved, the task force’s recommendations will put a long overdue end to the balkanization of the nation’s most exalted civic space.

Alas, the move comes too- late to bar that last one, the World War II Memorial, construction of which is slated to begin next year. Correctly likened to the work of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, it will bisect the entireMall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial just west of 17th Street, permanently disfiguring the very area the task force’s initiative is so keen to protect.

 

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