World War I deserves a prominent place in American history. More Americans died in WWI than in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. The War’s aftermath redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East and set the intellectual foundation for a liberal international order.
Yet WWI remembrance in the nation’s capital is an afterthought. The World War One Centennial Commission intends to change that. Today the Commission’s Edwin Fountain and Theodore Sedgwick led a discussion with FC2 Trustees about plans to revamp Pershing Park, dedicated to America’s WWI military leader General John Pershing.
The site, which is just a block from the White House, has fallen into disrepair. Built in the 1930s, it was later repurposed in the early 1980s with a pond and fountain that converted into an ice rink in the winter. Ten years ago, the water system stopped working. Instead of a stately fountain, there is now a barren and unused, concrete eyesore.
The new Pershing Park will be a destination and a proud telling of the American WWI story. The water element will be renovated and modernized. The centerpiece will be a bronze-relief dramatic telling of a soldier’s journey—from home, to the battlefield and back.
The site occupies an important location for the country and the city. It anchors the western end of the nation’s boulevard, Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s across the street from the White House and the DC government’s nerve center, the Wilson Building. It’s also at the border between the city’s memorial district and the business district and footsteps from the Willard.
The Federal City Council is excited about the project. We have long been engaged with Pennsylvania Avenue revitalization, beginning with the creation of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in the 1970s.
We encourage our Trustees to reach out to Mr. Fountain or Mr. Sedgwick for ways to get involved. The Commission is in the midst of a serious fundraising campaign. Although the site will be managed by the National Park Service, the Commission needs to raise money to fund on-going operations.