An American Icon Gets a Facelift

Reflecting Pool will soon have a new reflection

By John Wist
|  Friday, Aug 20, 2010  |  Updated 10:01 AM EDT
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An American Icon Gets a Facelift

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People gather around the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall before the start of "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial" Jan. 18. The free concert will include performances by Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Denzel Washington and an appearance by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

It’s been the center of some of the most iconic events in American history -- the cornerstone of the memorial to the 16th president, the backdrop of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and, of course, the reunion site of Jenny and Forrest.

Ironically it’s that last event that has convinced National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis that the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is in desperate need of a makeover.

“I watched Forrest Gump recently and that scene of Jenny and Forest wading toward each other in the Reflecting Pool sort of made me gasp,” Jarvis said. “If you’ve been in Washington for a while, you know the pool is pretty from a distance but water quality is a concern, especially at this time of year.”

But soon Forrest could come back and have a different view of the pool. This week the National Park Service awarded a $30.7 million contract to a Maryland firm to rebuild the Reflecting Pool.  The project is expected to start in late 2010 and is expected to last for 18 months -- a downer for tourists hoping to see an American landmark, but a project that should be a long-term success.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will fund the project, which will work to reduce water usage at the site and restore a national icon that is sadly falling into disrepair.

The pool was built between 1922 and 1923, is 2,000 feet long, 167 feet wide and slowly falling apart. Besides bad water quality the pool is cracking and leaking as it settles. And for a pool that holds about 6.75 million gallons of water, that can become a problem.

“We fill it, and fill it and fill it with water from the city of Washington and we look forward to a much smaller water bill on the Mall when this project is complete,” Jarvis said.

Not only will the water stay in the new Reflecting Pool, but it will stay cleaner thanks to a new cleaning system.

“We’ll pipe water from the Tidal Basin, it will be cleaned, sent to the Reflecting Pool and that re-circulating and cleansing pattern will take care of water quality issues we’ve had in the past,” Jarvis said.

In addition to constructing a new pool, the grounds around the landmark will also get a facelift. The granite steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial and the sidewalks that run parallel to the pool will be restored. In addition, more benches and new lighting will be installed.

Maryland-based Corman Construction will be in charge of the reconstruction. They’re the same construction firm that built the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge and rehabilitated the Monocacy Aqueduct.

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