Eisenhower family lifts opposition to Ike memorial in Washington
By Ian Simpson WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The family of former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower has lifted its longstanding opposition to the design of a memorial to him, the commission overseeing the project said on Monday.
The family’s support could remove a hurdle for construction of the memorial to the World War Two Allied commander and 34th president. The backing follows changes to the design by architect Frank Gehry. The nearly $150 million, 4-acre (1.6-hectare) project near Capitol Hill has been stalled for years amid opposition from the family, Congress and others over its scale and design. “I believe we have reached an excellent compromise and that the proposed modifications appropriately honor Eisenhower, Kansas’ favorite son, as both General and President,” Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, said in a statement. The family’s change of heart follows discussions with former Secretary of State James Baker III, a member of the memorial’s advisory commission, about a compromise design, the statement said. Gehry’s design for the memorial just off the National Mall included a pair of 80-foot (24-meter) freestanding columns and 447-foot (136-meter) steel mesh tapestries that depict the Kansas plains where the Eisenhower spent his boyhood. The tapestries had drawn the most criticism, especially from Congress and the Eisenhower family. Gehry is perhaps best known for the dramatic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The statement did not detail the design changes, but said the tapestries would include a representation of the site of Eisenhower’s World War Two headquarters in England and a greater focus on Kansas. Some members of Congress have criticized Gehry’s design as inappropriate and too big. A 2014 report by the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the memorial, blasted it as a “five-star folly” plagued by construction delays, design problems and rising costs. A current House of Representatives spending bill contains no funds for a monument, citing opposition from the Eisenhower family and others to Gehry’s design. One of the memorial’s most persistent critics, Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, decried the family’s decision. “It is extremely disappointing that the Eisenhower family has come to accept the enormous metal tapestry that will, if built, be forever be known as the ‘Iron Curtain.’ The symbolism could not be worse,” he said, referring to Eisenhower’s leadership during the Cold War. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Dan Grebler)