7 Beautiful Memorials in the U.S.
7 Beautiful Memorials in the U.S.

Across the United States, monuments and memorials commemorate politicians, service personnel, and civilians. Many are also great works of art or architecture, their beauty a fitting tribute to the loss of a life that touched so many hearts. Here are seven beautiful memorials in the U.S. for you to visit and pay your respects.

Crazy Horse, Custer County, SD

Sculpture of Crazy Horse carved into mountain.
Credit: Martina Birnbaum/ Alamy Stock Photo

In 1948, Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski embarked on an ambitious project to honor the brave Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. This vast memorial, carved out of the granite rock face, is still not yet complete, but when it is, it will depict the great leader on horseback. In comparison to the four Presidential heads at nearby Mount Rushmore, which each measure about 60 feet, Crazy Horse’s face is an extraordinary 87.5 feet tall. The initial part of the memorial was completed in 1998 although Ziolkowski didn’t live to see this remarkable milestone. Work continues on the mountain as a 219-foot-high horse’s head gradually takes shape. Even in its unfinished state, it’s a jaw-dropping accomplishment. However, though the piece was initially commissioned by Oglala Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear, the project is not without controversy. Some Lakota are opposed to carving into the sacred Black Hills.

The 9/11 Memorial, New York, NY

The 9/11 Memorial with skyscrapers in background.
Credit: ChrisHepburn/ iStock

The shock and horror that came with the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers in 2001 was felt across the globe. This audacious attack on the World Trade Center claimed many innocent lives and its repercussions are still felt today. A memorial was built on the footprint of the North and South towers, replacing the tangled mess of concrete and steel. Architect Michael Arad created two pools, their bronze-clad perimeter etched with the names of the 2983 victims that perished here, as well as those who died at the Pentagon and on the four hijacked flights. Water pours into the voids, draining away so that they never fill – encapsulating the notion of “absence made visible.” The sound masks the hum of traffic, enabling meditation and private thought at the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

The Lincoln Memorial at twilight.
Credit: Deejpilot/ iStock

The sight of the Lincoln Memorial mirrored in the adjacent reflecting pool is one of the most beautiful in the US.. capital. The building, constructed in the style of a Greek Doric temple, was dedicated in 1922. It contains a seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two of his best-known speeches, the Gettysburg Address and the words he uttered at his second inauguration. In 1867, the decision was made to erect a monument to commemorate the country’s 16th President after his tragic assassination. A statue was erected a year later, but it was widely acknowledged that there was a need for something more significant, commensurate with his achievements and status. The Lincoln Memorial is one of many monuments across the country dedicated to past Presidents, a list that also includes George Washington, whose own obelisk memorial is located on the opposite side of the water from Lincoln's.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, HI

USS Arizona Memorial.
Credit: Prisma Bildagentur/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, was a pivotal moment in World War Two. This assault on U.S. territory signaled the country’s entry into the conflict and ultimately helped to secure an Allied victory. During the bombardment, 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed on board the USS Arizona; the memorial represents the final resting place of many of them. The memorial was built in 1962, and almost two decades later a visitor center was opened to provide tourists with the historical background to the events of that day and their impact. Access to the memorial, which straddles the battleship’s submerged hull, is possible by boat. An opening in the floor overlooks the ship's sunken decks. The shape of the monument, which appears to sag in the middle, represents the challenges and setbacks faced during a conflict before the road to victory is completed.

Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Angel Fire, NM

White curved monument that is the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.
Credit: Education Images/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

After Lt. David Westphall paid the ultimate sacrifice serving his country, his parents wished to commemorate their son and those who served alongside him. They had recently purchased a sizeable tract of land on which they had intended to build a resort, but instead chose to use it to construct a chapel in honor of their child. They raised the funds to do so by selling most of the plot and securing additional donations to finish the project. Architecturally, it’s striking: the stark white shape draws its inspiration from the surrounding mountains and seems to point toward the heavens. The bricks that line the walkway also tell a story; the dates inscribed refer to service histories, two stars indicate that the person was killed in action and one denotes those still missing. A garden and fountain provide spaces for reflection and healing. It’s a poignant and fitting tribute that arose from tragedy.

Imagine Memorial, New York, NY

Mosaic title that says Imagine with scattered rose petals.
Credit: Iñaki del Olmo/ Unslash

Musician John Lennon was tragically assassinated in New York on December 8th, 1980 as he returned to The Dakota with wife Yoko Ono after a recording session. The following year, the adjacent section of Central Park was designated as a memorial. Ever since, it has since been known as Strawberry Fields, referencing the Beatles’ song "Strawberry Fields Forever." Landscape architect Bruce Kelley worked with John’s widow to create a beautiful space worthy of the music legend and all he stood for. Today, this living memorial to the late Beatle and peace activist is a place for quiet contemplation. The Imagine mosaic provides a focal point for those who wish to come and pay their respects. The simple black and white design is often adorned with colorful flowers left by visiting fans.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, VA

Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Credit: TriggerPhoto/ iStock

Some memorials honor the most famous people in the world. Others honor nameless people who represent larger themes of loss.  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most famous memorials in the U.S. The white marble tomb contains the remains of a nameless American soldier who perished during WWI, who represents the countless millions unidentified dead who perish during conflicts. Many of these men and women are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but this memorial commemorates them all in a poignant and honorable way. The site is attended to by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Army's official ceremonial unit, who watch over the site and follow a strict, symbolic routine. These soldiers honor the fallen by never abandoning their post, and are present, rain or shine, every day of the year.  

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