In 1931 the Theodore Roosevelt Association (known as the Roosevelt Memorial Association until 1953) selected Mason’s Island in the Potomac River as the site for a presidential memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. The Association purchased the 88.5-acre Island from the Washington Gas Light Company for $364,000.
Renowned landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., and Henry Vincent Hubbard were hired to develop the woodland landscape and its trail network to reflect Roosevelt’s conservation ethic and love of nature. Hundreds of members of the Civilian Conservation Corps helped clear the land of most non-native plants, shrubs and trees and plant over 20,000 native trees, shrubs and ground cover so that Olmstead and Hubbard could implement their plan for the mature, woodland sanctuary that you see today.
In the 1960’s a commemorative memorial plaza was developed on the north side of the Island by architect Eric Gugler. The plaza consists of an open granite-paved oval plaza flanked by two pools with fountains. A water-filled moat spanned by footbridges surrounds the whole area. Four 21-foot-high granite tablets inscribed with quotations from Roosevelt’s writings surround the 17-foot-high bronze statue of Roosevelt. Created by sculptor Paul Manship, the statue shows Roosevelt with one armed raised in characteristic speaking pose. The memorial plaza was dedicated in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Today, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway within the National Park Service (NPS). Approximately 160, 000 people visit the Island each year.