The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials

Apr 22, 2012 by

MICHAEL J. LEWIS, the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College, has taught American art and architecture at Williams since 1993. After receiving his B.A. from Haverford College in 1980 and two years at the University of Hannover in Germany, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. He has also taught at Bryn Mawr College, McGill University in Montreal, and the University of Natal in South Africa. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times,Commentary, and The New Criterion, and his books include The Gothic Revival andAmerican Art and Architecture.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on March 2, 2012, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. Photos of the monuments mentioned in this lecture can be viewed at hillsdale.edu/lewis.

THIS HAS BEEN an extraordinary year for American monuments. The memorial at Ground Zero opened last September in New York. One month later came the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial here in Washington, and soon to come to Washington—or perhaps not—is the memorial to President Eisenhower, which is to be a collaboration between architect Frank Gehry and sculptor Charles Ray. Each of these has been the subject of furious controversy, especially those in Washington.

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