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[Detail] Coos Bay Bridge, North Bend, Oregon.

The photographs and descriptions in Built in America: The Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey 1933-Present, can be used to develop many critical Thinking skills. Documents related to war memorials provide an opportunity to chronicle U.S. conflicts and the different ways in which they were remembered. Picture palaces from the 1920s provide an opportunity To understand the growing elegance and popularity of the motion picture industry. Buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright provide insight into the work of one of the nation's most famous architects. Other materials allow one to assess the conflicting interests of national defense and environmental conservation during the Cold War and to research the rise of power industries during the early-twentieth century.

Chronological Thinking Skills

A search on the phrase, world war memorial, produces a number of examples of monuments commemorating U.S. involvement in national and international conflicts. These works can be used to create a pictorial timeline of wars and to assess the changing architectural styles of the memorials themselves. For example, the Battle Monument in Baltimore, Maryland was completed in 1825 as "the first significant war memorial ever built in the United States," (page 2). The monument was designed to commemorate the September 1814 British attack on the city as did Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner. It employs both Egyptian and Classical architectural elements and includes a sculptured figure at the top, griffins, and two reliefs on the shaft.

The Civil War memorial in Massachusetts's Mount Auburn Cemetery also prominently employs Egyptian architecture in the form of a sphinx, while the Civil War tribute in Michigan's Monument Park uses the Greek Revivalist style of a single column. The State Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument in Indianapolis, Indiana, however, commemorates the Mexican, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars with sculptured figures that populate a Classical stone column.

The World War I monument in Rhode Island's Memorial Square also adopts a Classical style of architecture and "reflects the late 1920's popularity of Greek Revivalism in the use of a Doric column as the principal form," (page 3).

  • What do you think is the purpose of a war memorial?
  • Who is the monument designed to memorialize?
  • Who is its audience?
  • Where are monuments generally constructed?
  • Why do you think that these monuments use Egyptian, Greek, and other Classical forms to pay tribute to these wars? How did these styles change over time?
  • How do these monuments compare to contemporary memorials (e.g., the Korean or Vietnam Memorials in Washington, D.C.)?
  • Which monuments do you prefer? Why?