Each year about 4.5 million people visit Arlington National Cemetery to pay homage to the nation's military heroes, presidents and other public figures who have been interred and memorialized within its grounds. Arlington National Cemetery is also an active military cemetery, averaging 20 funerals each day.
Because of the heavy traffic, and the great number of people visiting Arlington annually, a new visitors center was opened on January 16, 1990. The center, near the cemetery's entrance and near the metrorail station, provides historical information, grave site locations and other information to visitors.
The center was constructed for the Department of the Army (1985-1988) at an approximate cost of nearly $18.7 million. The design and construction was completed under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Maryland. Corporations that participated in the project were: Frances D. Lethbridge & Associates (architects and planners), Coffin and Coffin (landscape architects), David Volkert & Associates, Inc. (engineers and project administrators). Patricia Schiffelbein was an associate architect for the project.
The visitors center features a wide portico, which faces Memorial Drive. A granite-paved forecourt and iron gates highlight the ceremonial approach to the Cemetery. Semi-circular porches at both ends of the building shelter the entrances, which adjoin the parking and transportation facilities.
The building is constructed of masonry with buff-colored stucco walls and limestone trim, columns and entablatures. The metal doors, windows, skylights and balustrades are bronze-anodized aluminum. The roof is surfaced with copper.
Inside the building, the atrium contains the central exhibits and information hall. Corridors opening on either side give access to offices, public facilities and tourmobile services in the flanking wings.
The parking facility, which borders Jefferson Davis Highway along the eastern boundary of the cemetery, is accessible from Memorial Drive. Parked vehicles are largely obscured from outside view by earth berms and granite-faced planting boxes.
The construction of the permanent visitors center and parking facility allowed for expansion of the Cemetery, with approximately 9,500 additional grave sites becoming available through the removal of the old visitor center.
The visitor center and parking facility are open during normal Cemetery hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 1 through March 31, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April 1 through Sept. 30.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard