America celebrated its birthday with fireworks and barbeques, but nowhere are the nation's symbols more grand and evident than in the monuments of Washington, D.C. We hold these architectural gems to be timeless and obvious, but as this collection of historic sketches and proposals show, the capital could have looked very, very different. Proposals for the Washington Monument included pyramids, equestrian statues and even something modeled after an Asian pagoda. "Now it seems so bizarre," says Martin Moeller, senior curator at the National Building Museum. "But if you think about it, how much more bizarre is it than using an ancient Egyptian obelisk as a symbol for the nation's first president?" Ideas for Abraham Lincoln's memorial—and where it should be built—ran the gamut, too. Architect John Russell Pope submitted at least seven proposals for the Lincoln Memorial, including this 1912 sketch of a massive step pyramid. (See Photos: "Rare Views of Statue of Liberty in Time for Reopening") Rumor has it that Pope didn't like the proposed site at the end of the National Mall, says Moeller, and put forth "outrageous designs as a psychological ploy to use another site, which he preferred." He lost out on the location and building—Henry Bacon designed the one that stands today—but went on to design the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art. —Luna Shyr

Lincoln Memorial

America celebrated its birthday with fireworks and barbeques, but nowhere are the nation's symbols more grand and evident than in the monuments of Washington, D.C. We hold these architectural gems to be timeless and obvious, but as this collection of historic sketches and proposals show, the capital could have looked very, very different. Proposals for the Washington Monument included pyramids, equestrian statues and even something modeled after an Asian pagoda. "Now it seems so bizarre," says Martin Moeller, senior curator at the National Building Museum. "But if you think about it, how much more bizarre is it than using an ancient Egyptian obelisk as a symbol for the nation's first president?" Ideas for Abraham Lincoln's memorial—and where it should be built—ran the gamut, too. Architect John Russell Pope submitted at least seven proposals for the Lincoln Memorial, including this 1912 sketch of a massive step pyramid. (See Photos: "Rare Views of Statue of Liberty in Time for Reopening") Rumor has it that Pope didn't like the proposed site at the end of the National Mall, says Moeller, and put forth "outrageous designs as a psychological ploy to use another site, which he preferred." He lost out on the location and building—Henry Bacon designed the one that stands today—but went on to design the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art. —Luna Shyr
Illustration courtesy National Archives

Pictures: Washington’s Other Monuments

Proposals for some of the nation's most timeless monuments and memorials show the capital could have looked very, very different.

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