Not quite two years after it was drained, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will soon be reflecting again.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the National Park Service will begin refilling the Reflecting Pool -- which measures approximately 2,080 feet by 170 feet -- any day now following a historic renovation of the pool that included replacement of the pool’s structure and installation of a sustainable, state-of-the-art circulation system that pulls water from the Tidal Basin. Nearly 25 million people visit the National Mall each year.
“The Reflecting Pool has served as the backdrop for important moments in our nation’s history ranging from Marian Anderson’s concert on Easter Sunday in 1939 to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963,” Secertary Salazar said in a press release Tuesday. “With this renovation, we have given the Reflecting Pool a much-needed overhaul and brought its engineering into the 21st century. The design is accessible and sustainable, significantly reducing water usage, improving water quality, and welcoming visitors from around the world who come to see this iconic landmark."
Built in the 1920s on marshland without pilings for support, the original pool sank significantly over the years, which caused cracks and leaks. Holding 6.75 million gallons of water, the Reflecting Pool lost an estimated 500,000 gallons a week to leaks and evaporation and required about 30 million gallons of municipal water annually to maintain it. Because it lacked a circulation system, it had to be emptied, cleaned, and refilled twice a year.
The pool was closed in November 2010 for reconstruction, which was made possible with $34 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The new pool is supported underground by more than 2,100 50-foot timbers to prevent it from sinking. It is shallower than the original, holding about 4 million gallons of water and realizing significant water savings. Specially-designed tinted concrete will improve the appearance and reflectivity of the water. The design maintained the footprint of the original structure, and the 580 granite stones that had been placed along the edges of the pool in the 1920s were catalogued and put back into place to maintain the pool’s cultural integrity.
The new pool uses the Tidal Basin as its primary water source, eliminating the reliance on the potable city water supply. The water will be treated and circulated in a closed loop. Water that is lost to evaporation will be addressed by capturing and treating the discharge from the adjacent World War II Memorial fountain.
“The extraordinary engineering of the new pool will enable the National Park Service to meet our long-term strategy for sustainable management of our parks,” said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The design enhances what is one of the most iconic vistas in the National Park System for the benefit of the 25 million visitors each year and for generations to come.”
The project also improved security for the Lincoln Memorial and enhanced the surrounding landscape. Dirt walkways were paved to improve access for visitors and will be wheelchair accessible. New energy-efficient lighting will reduce light pollution and cut maintenance costs.
Overall, the renovation required more than 19,000 cubic yards of concrete, 14,300 linear feet of pipe, 3 million pounds of epoxy coated rebar, and more than 350,000 square feet of copper wire mesh.
It will take the National Park Service approximately three to five days to fill the pool, which is scheduled to be reopened to the public at the end of the month.
“We know that the pool’s closure during construction has been a disappointment to many of our visitors, so we’re excited to be able to make it available once again,” said Bob Vogel, superintendant of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. “This is one of our nation’s most important landmarks, and I think that our visitors will agree that the wait was well worth it when they see the quality of work and improved design.”