WASHINGTON – A memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, mired in controversy for more than 17 years, is finally under construction on the National Mall.
Plans for the four-acre park, designed by architect Frank Gehry, have gone through major revisions and overcome many opponents since the park was proposed during President Bill Clinton's administration.
Until the Nov. 2 groundbreaking, some of the most stalwart detractors still hoped that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would withhold the last approval required.
But the National Park Service quietly issued a construction permit three days before a groundbreaking ceremony.
"It's a very proud moment for us, and so deserving of a man who saved Western democracy," said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Eisenhower's home state.
Eisenhower's granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, said Zinke had contacted her to see where the family stood. "I told him that we fully support it," she said. "We are excited by the opportunity to tell future generations about the pivotal, historic context of Dwight Eisenhower's leadership."
The monument will be organized around a 25,000-square-foot transparent tapestry of steel cables woven along a metal framework. The tapestry comprises 600 3-by-15-foot panels. It will skirt the Education Department building, just across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum.
The tapestry design is a peacetime portrayal of the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, where on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, Army Rangers captured and defended a German gun battery overlooking Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.
That design was the result of several revisions, driven in part by early opposition from the Eisenhower family.
Family representatives gave their blessing last year, after the designers agreed to scrap an earlier rendition of the tapestry that called for a pastoral landscape of Eisenhower's hometown of Abilene, Kan.
The park will also be home to three 9-foot-tall bronze statues of Eisenhower — as a young boy, as the supreme commander of the Allied forces in World War II and as the 34th president — accompanied by stone blocks etched with Eisenhower quotes reflecting each period.
The project will cost close to $150 million, mostly funded by taxpayer dollars. The memorial commission has set a target date to dedicate the memorial on May 8, 2020, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in World War II.