Some of DC’s most famous landmarks are monuments to our greatest presidents: Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson … but how about Theodore Roosevelt? Where’s that tribute? As a matter of fact, it’s in a piece of National Parks land on the Potomac between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
Theodore Roosevelt Island wasn’t something I had heard much about, or more honestly, paid much attention to, but it piqued my interest after I saw it featured on my favorite Roadside America app for iPhone. (Check it out here.) I Googled the island, and a page on About.com told me it was two blocks from “Rosslyn Circle”, whatever that is. (Turns out it’s that very common thoroughfare … I never thought of that as a circle, but this 1965 photo from Flickr user roger4336 shows that it once was. Does anyone today other than about.com call it Rosslyn Circle?) We found parking much farther away – closer to Iwo Jima, got our bearings, and took our time passing through Freedom Park and Gateway Park to get there. I had been considering parking in the garage of a hotel I know does not issue parking stickers, but I’m glad I didn’t because the weather was nice.
A small parking lot is available on the Virginia side of Roosevelt Island’s pedestrian bridge, but it was most definitely full on this nice day. No surprise there. The island is clearly frequented by joggers and dog-walkers, and no wonder! A long pedestrian bridge goes across the river to the island, where trails loop around a towering statue of Roosevelt. One trail extends onto a boardwalk through the river with excellent views of the Kennedy Center through the trees – and many mallard ducks. It is quiet – with the exception of planes coming into or leaving Reagan Airport, and the cars whizzing by just overhead on Memorial Bridge. Okay, so it’s not that quiet – but still I find it a reflective escape from super busy Rosslyn. As we walked the trails, three deer casually crossed our path just yards away.
The island’s centerpiece is of course this bronze statue of Roosevelt, surrounded by four pylons displaying some of the president’s most famous words. At present this area is under construction, but benches are available for resting, writing, or sketching. Big empty fountains sit still and silent, and a manmade river, also devoid of water, loops around under two bridges. It will look beautiful when renovations are complete.
There is no fee to visit Roosevelt Island at this time. For more information: Theodore Roosevelt Island at the National Park Service web site.