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Boys in the Reflecting Pool

Boys in the Reflecting Pool

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool was built in 1922 and 1923, following the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. It was designed by Henry Bacon and is just over 2,000 feet long, and 167 feet wide. 

Henry Bacon was a prominent architect in the United States, and was chosen to design the Lincoln Memorial in 1913. His original design did not include the Reflecting Pool. Earlier plans for this space included a cruciform shaped pool, as part of the McMillan Plan in the early 1900s. Complicated processes and a shift in direction from these earlier plans led to Bacon being tasked to design the Reflecting Pool. Part of the design for the Reflecting Pool originally included the Rainbow Pool which is now integrated into the World War II Monument. 

The Reflecting pool is shallow- between 18 inches at the edges and 30 inches at the center- which allows the water to stay generally calm, providing a smooth surface that acts as a mirror, reflecting the landscapes and monuments it is surrounded by. These reflections have been the inspiration for countless photographs taken of the site, particularly at night when the smooth surface of the water provides a stunning reflection of the lights on the both the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Monument, which sit at either end of the pool. 

While swimming has never been officially permitted in the Reflecting Pool, it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for city children like those in the photo to take a dip in the cool waters of the Reflecting Pool. This photo was taken in 1926, when there were very few public pools  in Washington, DC. 

Many notable events have taken place at the Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC. In 1963, on August 28th, the area was used for the Civil Rights Rally as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was at this rally that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of 250,000 people. 

Martin Luther King Jr. at the Reflecting Pool


Several years later, in 1967, 100,000 anti-Vietnam War protesters met at the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial before beginning their march on the Pentagon. 

In 2009 the Obama Inaugural Celebration was held at the Lincoln Memorial, garnering a crowd of 400,000 people. 

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is the largest of the many reflecting pools that can be found in Washington, DC, and it has seen many historic events since its construction. Between these major events, the Reflecting Pool provides a scenic view for tourists and local residents alike, offering a beautiful walk along its calm waters. 


Looking for something else to read? Check out the history of the Capitol Building!

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