When I visited Washington, DC in the summer of 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was still under construction. It would officially open just a few weeks later on August 22. When I returned to DC two years later, a visit to the Memorial was high on my To Do list. Here are my notes from that visit:
The Memorial is on the northwest side of the Tidal Basin, across the water from the Jefferson Memorial. The site is to the south of the National Mall, about even with the Vietnam Memorial.
The memorial is simple, dignified, and inspirational. Its main components are three large mounds of white marble that were once a single structure, the “mountain of despair.” The center of that mountain has been pulled out and forward as if drawn towards the Jefferson Memorial which is clearly visible across the Tidal Basin.
From this portion, called the “mountain of hope”, emerges the figure of Dr. King, his arms folded as he gazes across the water towards Jefferson. Along the sheer, smooth sides of this portion are striations that match similar grooves in the two remaining pieces of the mountain of despair which double as the entrance to the site.
Extending out in either direction from these two tall mounds of white marble are granite berms, landscaped on the outside and polished on the inside where they are inscribed with some of Dr. King’s most famous quotes (although none from the “I have a dream” speech). Another King phrase that had been inscribed on the side of the mountain of hope piece, was excised when it proved controversial. The removal took the form of a new striation so the repair is invisible. The site also contains a small gift shop with public restrooms.