Contact: David DeJonge, 616-540-4922 (talk/text)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - MAY 27, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC — Years after the effort for a National WWI Memorial was started by Frank Buckles, the last WWI veteran, the Foundation he started now opposes the creation of a new war memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.
Following a design competition last fall, the WWI Centennial Commission revealed its winner. The chosen memorial design would result in the total destruction of Pershing Park, a Washington landmark soon to be included in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The WWI Memorial Foundation opposes this destruction and suggests alternatives, such as a scaled-down memorial, an addition of a small stage at the existing park, and a search for a new site. The Foundation has proposed several designs, which would both restore Pershing Park and honor veterans.
"It would be incredible for the Commission to demonstrate the need for preservation and honor by restoring Pershing Park, preserving its purpose and honoring WWI veterans at the same time. To bulldoze the park sends a distinctly dangerous message to those trying to save other parks and memorials," stated David DeJonge, co-founder and president of the WWI Memorial Foundation.
"The Centennial Commission knew a year prior to their contest that the park would be protected under the National Registry. These instructions came from the very top of the National Park Service, and still the Commission instructed applicants that the entire park was expendable. We wonder why this fact was completely ignored?"
Inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places suggests that the new work should not have an adverse effect on the design—this is the essential challenge for the winning design.
The designs of Scott Allred of MGB+A - the Grassli Group in Utah show how the park could be restored and protected with the inclusion of small details from alternative designs. Some plans only move a single tree to accomplish preservation.
"Why not preserve Pershing Park and restore life to it? It was a gathering place for decades, for residents and visitors alike, for ice skating and relaxation. Let's see it brought to life again, not destroyed," DeJonge said.
The normal process of a site search was completely bypassed for this memorial. In that process, the Pershing Park site would have been properly vetted to see if it was even eligible to host the National WWI Memorial, and alternates would also have been considered.
"Sadly, once again this Memorial Day, our five million WWI heroes will not have a memorial to honor them. After 100 years we challenge Congress and the Centennial Commission to do the right thing and have a site search and offer complete renovation and preservation of Pershing Park," DeJonge noted.
To prevent the demolition of Pershing Park, please contact the following: