The Jefferson Memorial is located on the far south side of the Tidal Basin. The domed chamber is open 24-7. It is comprised of a circle of columns under a domed roof located directly on the water easily visible from many locations in the area, including the White House. Presently, the north side of the memorial facing the Tidal Basin is undergoing cleaning but is still accessible for visitors to see the inside of the dome where there is a 19-foot-tall statue of Jefferson along with quotations from some of his famous writings.
Jefferson was the first Secretary of State, 2nd Vice President and third President of the United States. He is credited with framing and writing our Declaration of Independence – with the input of four other Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. It is the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by representatives of the thirteen original colonies that we celebrate on July 4th each year.
After the American Revolution, Jefferson became the US Minister to France to represent the government of the newly formed United States. He spent 5 years in France, leaving in 1789, as the French Revolution began. While serving in France, Jefferson was able travel to other European countries and became fascinated with the Classical architecture of ancient Italy and Greece. When he returned to the United States, he completely rebuilt his own house at Monticello, VA, to reflect the dome of the Roman Pantheon.
Jefferson then became Secretary of State under George Washington and, as he became more prominent in the US government, moving from Vice President to President, Jefferson helped spread the trend of Neoclassical architecture. The Jefferson Memorial is inspired by his love of Neoclassical influences: simple columns and domes with coffered ceilings, constructed of light-colored stone, typically marble or granite on a grand scale.
Jefferson is also known for his interest in discovering a water route to the Pacific Ocean. As President he paid Napolean Bonaparte $3,000,000 in 1803/1804 for what is now half of the United States. Jefferson then determined to learn what the new land held. He sent two explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead a team to map this enormous area. They returned in 1805 and settlement of the new territory began almost at once.
Be sure to look directly across the tidal basin from the Statue of Jefferson inside the Chamber, you have a line of sight view of the White House.