Constitution Gardens is a park area in Washington, D.C., United States, located within the boundaries of the National Mall. The 50-acre (200,000 m2) park is bounded on the west by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, on the east by 17th St NW, on the north by Constitution Avenue, and on the south by the Reflecting Pool. Coordinates: Constitution Gardens has a small pond, which contains an island open to pedestrians.
The land that became Constitution Gardens was originally submerged beneath the Potomac River and was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century by the Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Navy built the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings as temporary offices on the land during World War I. The buildings were demolished in 1970 due in part to lobbying by President Richard Nixon, who had served in the offices as a navy officer. President Nixon subsequently ordered that a park be established on the land, and in 1976, Constitution Gardens was finally dedicated as a "living legacy American Revolution Bicentennial tribute." It has been a separate park unit in the National Park Service since 1982, administered under the National Capitol Parks-Central (NACC).
In July 1982, the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial was dedicated on the small island in the lake. On November 13 of the same year, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was also dedicated within Constitution Gardens. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the park a "living legacy tribute" to the Constitution on September 17, 1986 in honor of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, one year after that date.
From March 17 to March 19, 2003, Constitution Gardens was the site of a bizarre standoff between federal police and a disgruntled tobacco farmer, Dwight Watson. Watson had driven his tractor into the center of the lake and claimed he had explosives, prompting the evacuation of the area and holding the FBI and U.S. Park Police at bay for 48 hours before he surrendered. During the standoff, Watson dug up part of the island and damaged a retaining wall (for which he received a conviction for destroying federal property) but apparently did not harm any of the monuments.
As home to famous monuments, Constitution Gardens continues to have millions of visitors every year. It is also the site of an annual naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens hosted by the National Park Service.
- "Foundation Statement for the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Park", National Park Service, retrieved 2010-05-20
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- "Constitution Gardens", National Park Service
- "Trust for the National Mall: Constitution Gardens"