A Declaration of a Founding Father's Legacy
Born on April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson became a 19th-century revolutionary man who left a lasting impact that continues to echo through American history. He was a Founding Father who served as the principal author of our nation’s Declaration of Independence and the third president, so it’s no wonder his legacy lives on within many parts of our country, including in our national parks. From the Thomas Jefferson Memorial to historic sites that honor this iconic figure’s accomplishments, these destinations display how a single individual’s life can profoundly shape the future of a nation.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
A unit of National Mall and Memorial Parks in our nation's capital, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 13, 1943. Influenced by Jefferson's own taste in classical architecture, the neoclassical building was modeled after the Pantheon of Rome and houses a bronze statue of Jefferson. This 19-foot immortalized Jefferson overlooks the Tidal Basin holding the document he was so instrumental in writing: the Declaration of Independence.
Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia was a central setting in our nation’s early history. Comprised of multiple locations around the city, Independence National Historic Park preserves historic sites that were crucial to the American Revolution and our nation's independence.
One of the park's most famous locations is Independence Hall, where Jefferson and other Founding Fathers debated and later adopted both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Liberty Bell is another major tourist attraction included within the park, but be sure not to overlook some lesser-known sites, like Old City Hall and the City Tavern.
Gateway Arch National Park
As the focal point of downtown St. Louis, the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse, and the grounds of Gateway Arch National Park provide a green oasis amid rows of hotels, shops, and eateries. This memorial commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s role in the westward expansion of the United States in the early 19th century with the Louisiana Purchase, when St. Louis was essentially the "gateway" to the west.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Thomas Jefferson is in good company at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where his visage is immortalized on the granite mountainside along with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. This author of the Declaration of Independence is also responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, which added territory that would eventually become 15 new states. The primary sculptor of this memorial, Gutzon Borglum, chose Jefferson to represent the growth of the United States. Originally conceived as an idea to promote tourism in the Black Hills region of South Dakota by historian Doan Robinson, Mount Rushmore has become one of America's most recognizable monuments.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Stretching across eleven states from Wood River, Illinois, to the Washington coast, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail follows the approximate route that the Lewis and Clark Expedition — also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition — blazed from May 1804 to September 1806. While the trail is primarily dedicated to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, those who traveled with them, and the young Native American Sacagawea who led them, it's important to remember that it was Thomas Jefferson who dispatched the expedition, hoping to learn more about the newly acquired lands of the Louisiana Purchase. Stretching 3,700 miles, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is one of the original national scenic trails, established in 1978, and hiking it in its entirety remains an adventure even today.
These national parks honor Thomas Jefferson’s story and interpret the impact he had on shaping America. Take the opportunity to revisit these places, scattered coast to coast, and explore his legacy at one of these incredible national parks.