The Magazine

Washington by Design

What the look of the nation's capital tells us.

Jun 16, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 38 • By RICHARD STRINER
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Is the Jefferson Memorial "stranded," somehow, or cut off from the life of the Mall? Tell that to the visitors who flock to the Tidal Basin at cherry blossom time and rent paddle boats from which to gaze upon the Jefferson Memorial.
The definitive book about Washington will never be written, and this is exactly as it should be. Definitive judgments on the buildings of the city will never be delivered by critics. The city as a work-in-progress will change, and then go on changing. It is up to preservationists to see that the changes are guided in a way that is enlightened. These two books are new grist for the mill.

Richard Striner, professor of history at -Washington College, is the author, most recently, of Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery.