After the area around the Tidal Basin was established as West Potomac Park “for the recreation and pleasure of the people,” the park became very popular. People enjoyed the park by foot, car, or horseback. The first cherry trees were planted in the park in 1912 and congress introduced a resolution to authorize the erection of a memorial to Thomas Jefferson 14 years later.
The location of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was changed a few times before construction started on November 17th, 1938. Both an island in the middle of the Tidal Basin and the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenue were proposed as potential sites for the memorial. Despite the time spent on determining a location for the memorial (three years!) there was still some controversy surrounding the final location. On the day the construction started, fifty women marched on the White House. They petitioned to stop the damage that was falling upon the cherry trees at the memorial site, which were supposed to be uprooted due to the construction. These women led the “Cherry Tree Rebellion,” which consisted of them chaining themselves to a tree at the construction site.
Roosevelt, who had been personally involved with the construction of the memorial (he personally contacted the Commission of Fine Arts about creating a memorial for Jefferson), was frustrated with the group of women and felt they were over exaggerating. There were thousands of trees at the Tidal Basin, and just 88 were supposed to be removed. The women eventually were convinced to give up, and Roosevelt had the trees removed in the middle of the night to avoid any further conflict. The memorial was officially dedicated by Roosevelt on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birthday.