Testimony Before the Commission of Fine Arts Regarding Security at the Lincoln Memorial

The National Mall is an internationally renowned symbol of America and our democracy. The Mall’s overarching symbolism is more than monuments like Lincoln. The essence of the Mall is the public open space and majestic vistas. But that open space is increasingly marred by walls, barriers, and other obstructions. This is only the beginning of the problem. Plans are now being devised to encircle and fortify each individual museum and major memorial on the Mall.

We urge the Commission to take this opportunity to assert its role as steward of the 1901-1902 McMillan Plan for the Mall. We urge you to evaluate this Lincoln Memorial security project in terms of the Mall as a unified public space, not simply a collection of buildings.

The current security situation is the result of the Mall’s divided management. Each agency has it own security assessment and program for the buildings under its jurisdiction. No one is addressing the Mall as a whole and its historic aspect as Jefferson’s “public walks,” and as formal open parkland.

Our suggestion: Look at security as a Mall-wide issue.

One possibility would be to consider securing the perimeter of the entire Mall’s cross-axis, guided by the National Capital Planning Commission’s Urban Design and Security Report (www.ncpc.gov), providing at street level a combination of retaining walls, reinforced benches, and other attractive elements that could protect against vehicular attack while leaving the Mall’s open public space open and accessible.

We urge the Commission to ask Congress to bring together the seven or eight agencies with jurisdiction over the Mall to look at the Mall as a whole. Security – the most pressing issue confronting the Mall – provides an impetus to getting to the heart of the Mall’s current and future state.

Judy Scott Feldman, Ph.D.
National Coalition to Save Our Mall