Pershing Park

Pershing Park is a memorial park dedicated to General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing located at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States.

The area was an undeveloped tract of land covered with weeds and litter from the inception of the District of Columbia in 1792 until April 1957, when District officials proposed renaming the plot Pershing Square. Legislation officially designating the plot as a Pershing Square subsequently was adopted by Congress later that year. How to develop the square proved controversial, however, as different groups offered competing proposals for memorials to John J. Pershing, who had served as General of the Armies in World War I. These disagreements led to inaction, and by 1962 the square remained bare and often cluttered with trash. In September 1963, District of Columbia officials finally planted grass and flower beds to temporarily beautify the square.

In November 1963, the President's Council on Pennsylvania Avenue proposed a master plan for the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue NW from the White House to the United States Capitol. The master plan proposed constructing a National Plaza (also called the Western Plaza) which would have required the demolition of the Pershing Square, the Willard Hotel north of the square, and the two blocks of buildings and street east of these tracts. The American Legion, among others, kept pushing for a grand statue of Pershing for the square, but all plans for the park were suspended until such time as the Pennsylvania Avenue master plan could be finalized.

National Plaza was never constructed. Instead, a much smaller Freedom Plaza was built which did not require the demolition of Pershing Park (as the square was now known). Designs for a statue and memorial to Pershing and design of the park were finalized in the 1970s, and Pershing Park constructed simultaneously with Freedom Plaza from 1979 to 1981. During this period, the park was slightly enlarged due to the realignment of Pennsylvania Avenue NW along the area's north side. Pershing Park formally opened to the public at 11:45 on May 14, 1981.

Pershing Park contains a statue of General Pershing by Robert White, as well as memorial walls and benches behind him describing his achievements in World War I. The park also contains a fountain, a pond (which turns into an ice rink in the winter), and flower beds. The ice rink is managed by a concessionaire of the National Park Service. Pershing Park is owned by the government of the District of Columbia, but is administered by the National Park Service since it is included in the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site.

More than 400 demonstrators were illegally arrested in Pershing Park in September 2002 during anti-globalization protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Famous quotes containing the word park:

    Linnæus, setting out for Lapland, surveys his “comb” and “spare shirt,” “leathern breeches” and “gauze cap to keep off gnats,” with as much complacency as Bonaparte a park of artillery for the Russian campaign. The quiet bravery of the man is admirable.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)