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Near the center of Arlington National Cemetery stands one of the most imposing features of our most hallowed ground, THE MEMORIAL AMPHITHEATER.  Every year it is the scene of numerous impressive ceremonies and the circular seating area hosts 5,000 visitors at each of three major annual memorial service:

One Copy of Each of These
Was Placed in the Cornerstone

  • The Bible

  • The Declaration of Independence

  • The U.S. Constitution

  • U.S. Flag (1915)

  • Designs and plans for the amphitheater

  • L'Enfant's map design of the city of Washington, D.C.

  • Autograph of the amphitheater commission

  • One of each U.S. coin in use in 1915

  • One of each U.S. postage stamp in use in 1915

  • 1914 map of Washington, D.C.

  • The Congressional Directory

  • Boyd's City Directory for the District of Columbia

  • Autographed photo of President Woodrow Wilson

  • The cornerstone dedication program

  • The Evening Star newspaper account of the ceremonies, and the campaign to build the Amphitheater

The amphitheater was the dream of Judge Ivory G. Kimball who began campaigning for its construction in the early 1900s.  His dream began to become reality when Congress authorized construction of the amphitheater on March 4, 1913.  Ground breaking ceremonies were held two years later on March 1, 1915 and on October 15, 1915 President Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone. 

Judge Kimball never lived to see the complete fulfillment of his dream; he passed away on May 15, 1916, five months after the laying of the cornerstone.  He was buried in Section 3 of the cemetery, near the site of the amphitheater he fought so hard to bring to pass, and which site was dedicated on October 15, 1915.

Six years later President Warren G. Harding presided as the Unknown Soldier of World War I was laid to rest at the east side of the amphitheater, overlooking our Nation's capitol.  Since that date both the amphitheater and the associated Tomb are linked in ceremonies of reverence and remembrance for those who lay below, as well as in other cemeteries across the United States and around the world.

The Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns

The Amphitheater was constructed primarily of Vermont-quarried Danby marble, though the marble in the Memorial Display Room is Bottincino stone, imported from Italy.  Inside is housed the Memorial Display Room which contains the presentation flags for each of the Unknown Soldiers, as well as other plaques and memorials.  The Amphitheater also includes a small chapel.  Above the chapel rises a small stage over which one can see the inscription of the phrase from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

  "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."  

Inscribed inside the apse are the words of General George Washington in 1775:

  "When we assumed the soldier we did not lay aside the citizen."  

Inscribed around the frieze above the colonnade is a list of 44 U.S. battles that occurred during the period from the American Revolution to the Spanish-American War.  On either side of the state are inscribed the names of 14 pre-World War I Army generals and 14 Navy admirals.


At the entrance of the Memorial Amphitheater is etched a quote from Horace's Ode III, 2, 13 which when translated from Horace's native Latin, reads:

  "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." 



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Unless otherwise noted, all materials by C. Douglas Sterner