The John Ericsson National Memorial

When riding in  West Potomac Park  on the Rock Creek Park Trail which runs along the North shore of the Potomac River, you will find the John Ericsson National Memorial, which is located near the National Mall at Ohio Drive and Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. (MAP).

The memorial is dedicated to the Swedish-born engineer-inventor who is best known for his work during the Civil War when he transformed naval warfare through his design of the iron-plated USS Monitor, the ship that ensured Union naval supremacy. He also revolutionized maritime history with his invention of the screw propeller.  Later Ericsson designed other naval vessels and weapons, including a type of torpedo and a Destroyer, a torpedo boat that could fire a cannon from an underwater port.

The memorial was originally authorized by Congress in 1916, and was completed a decade later.  It was dedicated in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge and Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden. Congress appropriated just over half the cost of creating  the memorial, with the remainder being raised privately by Americans chiefly of Scandinavian descent.

The memorial is constructed out of pink Milford granite, and measures 20 feet high with a 150-foot diameter base.  It features a seated figure of Ericsson in the front, and three standing figures behind him.  These figures represent adventure, labor, and vision.  It is maintained by the National Mall and Memorial Parks (also known as National Capital Parks-Central), which is an administrative unit of the National Park Service encompassing many national memorials and other areas in D.C.  The statue is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city.  They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Although none of his inventions created any large industries, he is regarded as one of the most influential mechanical engineers ever. Ericsson died on March 8, 1889, the anniversary of the famous Battle of Hampton Roads of which his famous Monitor played a central role.


  1. D says:

    Great website! Keep up the great work of showing DC from a different perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Especially since this is my first attempt at blogging and I am just getting started. I plan to eventually write about 365 different monuments, statues, memorials, and other interesting places in D.C. so that this blog will be a compilation of an entire year’s worth of attractions for people to visit in the D.C. area.


  2. Henry Høgh says:

    Great blog; my wife and I visited DC this summer and took a lot of pictures but missed this one. Ericsson and SS Monitor is of interest because a remote family member participated in the civil war and he wrote a lot of letters back to his mother in Denmark. In one of the letters, he wrote about the battle at Hampton Road when Monitor arrived and the battle unfolded. He writes that a “hell machine” came and there was a battle on living and dead. Currently, I am writing about the pictures at the Portrait Gallery.

    I just found out about your blog we could have used the information during our visit.


  3. […] to go for a bike ride and discover sites and events in the city.  He has posted this blog  “The John Ericsson National Memorial“. I highly recommend seeing this and also his other very interesting blogs from Washington […]


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