Preservationists took heart this week when Federal officials released a long-awaited report to Congress on the future of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Bowing to public outcry, the Department of the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Arlington National Cemetery have done an “about face” and have informed Congress that the Cemetery now will conduct much-needed repairs to the 1932 Tomb Monument.
While this is an important victory for preservationists, the report to Congress makes it very clear that replacement of the authentic monument still is seriously being explored as an option. The Cemetery’s stubborn fixation on replacement has amazed some observers, especially in light of the fact that officials now concede that replacing the 48-ton marble block would “diminish the integrity” of historic Arlington National Cemetery and cost taxpayers substantially more -- an estimated $2.2 million to construct a replica monument compared to only $65,000 to properly repair the original Tomb.
The National Trust and our allies in this fight will continue to closely monitor the Cemetery’s treatment of the Tomb Monument.
Many thanks to so many Members and friends who contacted Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler and Members of Congress about the historic Tomb Monument – your support was critical in this important victory. Visit www.preservationnation.org/tomb to read a copy of the report or to find out how you can help.
-– Robert Nieweg
Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office.
Updated 8/21/2008 to correct the size of the Tomb (48 tons).