Eisenhower Family Wants Ike Memorial Scrapped

Susan Eisenhower: "Barefoot boy" memorial needs to go back to drawing board.


At a Capitol Hill hearing on the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial on Tuesday, Susan Eisenhower, the 34th president's granddaughter, recommended designers of the space go back to the drawing board.

She argued that the current design—which features a depiction of Eisenhower as a boy flanked by stone blocks—has more in common with the socialist realist memorials of the Soviet Union and Moaist China than current U.S. monuments to great American presidents.

"A re-design is the only way to make this process acceptable," Susan Eisenhower told lawmakers. "Ike would've wanted something less dramatic."

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The current design by California architect Frank Gehry calls for two bas-relief pictures of Eisenhower as Supreme Commander in World War II Europe and another of him as President etched into large stone blocks on either side of a life-size statue depicting Ike as a young man.

Multiple woven stainless steel "tapestries" portraying the Kansas plains where Eisenhower grew up would surround the memorial in front of the Department of Education.

But the late president's granddaughter slammed the design, saying the metal works, pillars and accents looked like everything from nuclear missile silos to Nazi concentration camp fences.

"They are inappropriate in this space and do nothing but serve as an expensive and unnecessary backdrop to this flawed concept," she said regarding the steel tapestries.

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Susan Eisenhower also criticized the decision to depict a young Ike as a "barefoot boy from Kansas" rather than as the general who helped liberate Europe from the Nazis.

"Great memorials make simple statements," she told lawmakers. "Eisenhower's professional assignments carried none of the romantic notion that is embodied in the current memorial concept and design. The man we celebrate is not a dreamy boy, but a real man who faced unthinkable choices."

Frank Gehry, the memorial's designer, submitted a letter indicating that he is willing to work with the Eisenhower family to make appropriate changes to the memorial's design.

Final approval of the design falls on the bipartisan memorial commission which originally scheduled construction to start in 2012. Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel, Executive Director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, suggested that re-evaluating the Eisenhower memorial's design would push the project back by at least another two years and add another $20 million to the cost of the project.

Corrected on : Corrected on 03/21/12: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the panelist who estimated that the project could get pushed back by two years and cost another $20 million. Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel estimated what the delay to the project might cost.