Arlington Memorial Bridge , Washington DC


Memorial Bridge
Photo courtesy of the DC SHPO

Arlington Memorial Bridge and its related architectural, engineering, sculptural, and landscape features are significant as important elements in the Neo-classical urban design of the National Capital as it evolved during the first third of the 20th century. Successfully integrated with Washington’s grand plan, the bridge composition enhances the monumental city as well as the riverscape.

Widely regarded as Washington’s most beautiful bridge, Memorial Bridge symbolically links North and South in its alignment between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. The adjacent Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway terminus, the Watergate steps, and monumental equestrian statuary join with the bridge in constituting a formal western terminus of the great Washington Mall composition at the edge of the Potomac. The bridge axis, angled southwesterly from the east-west Mall axis, is carried on Memorial Avenue across the Boundary Channel Bridge to the Virginia shore. There it terminates at the Arlington Hemicycle, keystone of the grand renaissance gateway to Arlington National Cemetery and now the location of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. This Memorial and museum, located in the Hemicycle, was designed in 1989 by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, and is now open to the public. The project has restored the Hemicycle in a very sensitive manner. Arlington House rises as the focal point on the hill above.

The entire composition was designed by the prominent architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. The low, Neo-classical bridge is 2,163 feet long; nine broad arches carry the bridge across the river. Except for the draw span, the bridge is of reinforced concrete construction faced with dressed North Carolina granite ashlar.

“Sacrifice” sculpture by Leo Friedlander
Photograph courtesy of the DC SHPO

Flanking the eastern ends of the bridge and parkway are two pairs of monumental Neo-classical equestrian sculpture on identical pedestals. “The Arts of War” by Leo Friedlander stands at the end of the bridge. In “Valor” on the left, the male equestrian is accompanied by a female striding forward with a shield; in “Sacrifice” a standing female symbolizing the earth looks up to the rider Mars. “The Arts of Peace” by James Earle Fraser flanks the end of the parkway. “Music and Harvest” consists of a winged horse, Pegasus, between a male figure with a bundle of wheat and a sickle and a woman with a harp. In “Aspiration and Literature,” another Pegasus is flanked by figures holding a book and a bow. The statues, approximately 17 feet tall are of gilded bronze. They were commissioned in 1925, but were not erected until 1951.

Memorial Bridge runs across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington House in Virginia. Metro stop: Arlington Cemetery