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John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame

Overview
The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame is a presidential memorial at the gravesite of U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

. The permanent site replaced a temporary grave and eternal flame used during President Kennedy's funeral on November 25, 1963. The site was designed by architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke was an architect based in San Francisco, California, who designed numerous notable monuments and structures in the Modernist, Bauhaus, and other similar styles. He was an early proponent of contextual architecture. Among his more notable buildings and projects are the Hawaii...

, a long-time friend of President Kennedy's. The permanent John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame grave site was consecrated and opened to the public on March 15, 1967.


President John F.
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Encyclopedia
The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame is a presidential memorial at the gravesite of U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

. The permanent site replaced a temporary grave and eternal flame used during President Kennedy's funeral on November 25, 1963. The site was designed by architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke was an architect based in San Francisco, California, who designed numerous notable monuments and structures in the Modernist, Bauhaus, and other similar styles. He was an early proponent of contextual architecture. Among his more notable buildings and projects are the Hawaii...

, a long-time friend of President Kennedy's. The permanent John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame grave site was consecrated and opened to the public on March 15, 1967.

Original gravesite



President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963.

Initial press reports indicated that President Kennedy would be buried at Holyhood Cemetery
Holyhood Cemetery
Holyhood Cemetery is a cemetery located in Brookline, Massachusetts, United States. Laid out in 1857, the cemetery was designed to reflect the mid-19th century influence of romantic landscape cemetery planning begun at Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery. It was the first such cemetery in Brookline...

 in Brookline, Massachusetts
Brookline, Massachusetts
Brookline is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States, which borders on the cities of Boston and Newton. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town was 58,732.-Etymology:...

, where his son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy (who had died on August 9, 1963, two days after his premature birth) was buried.

But the site for the President's grave was quickly changed to the hillside just below Arlington House
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a Greek revival style mansion located in Arlington, Virginia, USA that was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the Potomac River, directly across from the National Mall in Washington,...

. The site was chosen because the President and his friend, architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke
John Carl Warnecke was an architect based in San Francisco, California, who designed numerous notable monuments and structures in the Modernist, Bauhaus, and other similar styles. He was an early proponent of contextual architecture. Among his more notable buildings and projects are the Hawaii...

, happened to visit the site in March 1963 and the President had admired the peaceful atmosphere of the location. The initial suggestion to bury President Kennedy at Arlington appears to have been made by Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

. First Lady
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 Jacqueline Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle...

 agreed to the change. Although Kennedy's sisters and many of his long-time associates from Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 were opposed to burial at Arlington, Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy , also referred to by his initials RFK, was an American politician, a Democratic senator from New York, and a noted civil rights activist. An icon of modern American liberalism and member of the Kennedy family, he was a younger brother of President John F...

 visited the site with McNamara on Saturday, November 23, and concluded that Mrs. Kennedy's wishes should be honored.

On Sunday, November 24, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy requested an eternal flame
Eternal flame
An eternal flame is a flame or torch that burns day and night for an indefinite period. The flame that burned constantly at Delphi was an archaic feature, "alien to the ordinary Greek temple"....

 for her husband's grave. According to several published accounts, she drew inspiration from a number of sources. One was the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a grave in which the unidentifiable remains of a soldier are interred. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified...

 at the Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
-The design:The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin , in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture . Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, which she and her husband had seen during a visit to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1961. She also took inspiration from the novel The Candle in the Wind (the fourth book from the collection The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T. H. White. It was first published in 1958 and is mostly a composite of earlier works written in a period between 1938 and 1941....

by T. H. White
T. H. White
Terence Hanbury White was an English author best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King, first published together in 1958.-Biography:...

), which was part of the inspiration for the 1960 stage musical
Musical theatre
Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an...

 Camelot
Camelot (musical)
Camelot is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe . It is based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T. H. White tetralogy novel The Once and Future King....

(the cast recording
Cast recording
A cast recording is a recording of a musical that is intended to document the songs as they were performed in the show and experienced by the audience. An original cast recording, as the name implies, features the voices of the show's original cast...

 was a favorite of the Kennedys). Her brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver
Sargent Shriver
Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr., known as Sargent Shriver, R. Sargent Shriver, or, from childhood, Sarge, was an American statesman and activist. As the husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he was part of the Kennedy family, serving in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations...

, counseled against an eternal flame, worried that it might appear ostentatious or that it would compete with other such memorials at Arlington National Cemetery. But Mrs. Kennedy was adamant.

The President's funeral was set for Monday, November 25. This left very little time to manufacture and install an eternal flame. Overnight, Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Clayton B. Lyle and a United States Army Corps of Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

 team built the eternal flame: A propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 gas-fueled tiki
Tiki culture
Tiki kitsch culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world...

 torch
Torch
A torch is a fire source, usually a rod-shaped piece of wood with a rag soaked in pitch and/or some other flammable material wrapped around one end. Torches were often supported in sconces by brackets high up on walls, to throw light over corridors in stone structures such as castles or crypts...

 was procured from the Washington Gas and Light Company
Washington Gas
WGL Holdings, Inc. , is a public utility holding company located in the United States that serves customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia...

, tested, and slightly modified for emplacement. The Corps also installed a gas line to a propane tank 200 yards (182.9 m) away to feed the torch. A mound of evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

s was placed around the base of the flame to cover the tubing and torch mechanism, and the head of the grave dug in front of the flame.
The grave was set in a plot of grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 roughly 5 yards (4.6 m) on each side. The site was about halfway up the hill on which Arlington House stands. The grave was placed so that it had a view of the Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is an American memorial built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor of the main statue was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior...

 and Washington Monument
Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington...

, and was aligned with them. Jacqueline Kennedy lit a taper from a candle held by a nearby soldier, and then brought the eternal flame to life at the end of the burial service. The late president's brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, symbolically lit the flame after her.

On the evening of November 26, the site was surrounded by a white picket fence. The fencing covered an expanded area 30 feet (9.1 m) long by 20 feet (6.1 m) wide. The enlarged site was due to the wish of Mrs. Kennedy to inter her two deceased children next to their father. (In addition to Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy had given birth to an unnamed stillborn
Stillbirth
A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

 daughter in 1956.) She had read that President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 had been buried next to his deceased son, Willie Lincoln
William Wallace Lincoln
William Wallace "Willie" Lincoln was the third son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. He died at the age of 11. He was named after Mary's brother-in-law Dr. William Wallace.- Final illness and death :...

, and she recalled her husband's desire to be buried with his family. Mrs. Kennedy's mother, Janet Auchincloss, oversaw the disinterment of the daughter in Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

, while Cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Richard Cushing (a long-time friend of the family) supervised the disinterment of Patrick Kennedy in Massachusetts. The two caskets were flown to Washington, D.C., accompanied by Mrs. Auchincloss, and the children buried next to their father on December 5, 1963. A small white cross was placed at the head of the daughter's grave, and a small white headstone placed at the head of Patrick Kennedy's grave.

During the funeral, flowers were laid on the hillside above the grave. After the erection of the fence, flowers were placed inside the enclosure, leaning against the uphill side of the fence. A canvas
Canvas
Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame...

-covered circular wooden walkway was built from Sheridan Drive to the grave site to give members of the public access to the grave.

Development of a permanent gravesite


John Carl Warnecke, a friend of the Kennedys', visited the grave with Mrs. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on Wednesday, November 28, to discuss themes and plans for a permanent memorial. The following day, Warnecke was chosen by Mrs. Kennedy to design the president's tomb. Warnecke immediately concluded that the permanent grave must be simple and must incorporate the eternal flame. A few days later, Warnecke agreed that, although it was not required, he would submit the design for the permanent Kennedy grave site to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts.

Initially, there was some concern that an eternal flame might not be approved by the cemetery. The Army Corps of Engineers was studying the installation of a permanent flame just a week after Kennedy's burial. But the Army was also considering removing the flame, as no such memorials were permitted in Arlington National Cemetery. On December 3, 1963, the Army concluded that the Kennedy plot was not part of the official burial section of Arlington National Cemetery, and agreed to continue to allow an eternal flame.

The U.S. government formally set aside a 3 acres (1.2 ha) site surrounding the President's grave on December 5, 1963.

The grave design process was placed under tight secrecy. An extensive research project was conducted in which hundreds of famous tombs (such as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and Grant's Tomb
Grant's Tomb
General Grant National Memorial , better known as Grant's Tomb, is a mausoleum containing the bodies of Ulysses S. Grant , American Civil War General and 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant...

) as well as all existing presidential burial sites. Warnecke discussed design concepts with more than 40 architects, sculptors
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, painters
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, landscape architect
Landscape architect
A landscape architect is a person involved in the planning, design and sometimes direction of a landscape, garden, or distinct space. The professional practice is known as landscape architecture....

s, stonemasons
Stonemasonry
The craft of stonemasonry has existed since the dawn of civilization - creating buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone from the earth. These materials have been used to construct many of the long-lasting, ancient monuments, artifacts, cathedrals, and cities in a wide variety of cultures...

, calligraphers
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

, and liturgical
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 experts—including the sculptor Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi
was a prominent Japanese American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces,...

, architectural model
Architectural model
An architectural model is a type of a scale model, tangible representation of a structure built to study aspects of an architectural design or to communicate design ideas to clients, committees, and the general public...

 maker Theodore Conrad, and the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. Noguchi counseled Warnecke to add a large sculptural cross to the site and to eliminate the eternal flame (which he felt was kitsch
Kitsch
Kitsch is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that...

y). Warnecke consulted with Mrs. Kennedy about the design of the grave many times over the following year. Hundreds of architectural drawings and models were produced to explore design ideas. On April 6, 1964, Warnecke sent a memorandum
Memorandum
A memorandum is from the Latin verbal phrase memorandum est, the gerundive form of the verb memoro, "to mention, call to mind, recount, relate", which means "It must be remembered ..."...

 to Mrs. Kennedy in which he outlined his desire to retain the eternal flame as the centerpiece of the burial site and to keep the site's design as simple as possible. In the course of the research and conceptualization effort, Warnecke considered the appropriateness of structures or memorials at the site (such as cross
Cross
A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars perpendicular to each other, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run obliquely, the design is technically termed a saltire, although the arms of a saltire need not meet...

es, shafts, pavilions, etc.), the history of Arlington National Cemetery, the vista, and how to handle ceremonies at the site. By August 1964, Warnecke and his assistants had written a 76-page research report which concluded that the gravesite was not a memorial
Memorial
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

 nor monument
Monument
A monument is a type of structure either explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, or simply as an example of historic architecture...

, but a grave. "This particular hillside, this flame, this man and this point in history must be synthesized in one statement that has distinctive character of its own. We must avoid adding elements that in later decades might become superficial and detract from the deeds of the man," Warnecke wrote This conclusion drove the final design. The walkways and elliptical overlook were conceptualized very early in the design process. Landscape architects Hideo Sasaki
Hideo Sasaki
Sasaki Hideo was an influential American landscape architect.-Biography:Sasaki Hideo was born in Reedley, California, on 25 November 1919. He grew up working on his family's California truck farm, and harvesting crops on Arizona farms. He began his college studies at the University of California,...

 and Lawrence Halprin
Lawrence Halprin
Lawrence Halprin was an influential American landscape architect, designer and teacher.Beginning his career in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, in 1949, Halprin often collaborated with a local circle of modernist architects on relatively modest projects. These figures included William...

 helped design the approaches and setting, but not the grave site. For some time in the spring and summer of 1964, the design process appeared to slow as Warnecke and his associates struggled to design the grave site. But in the summer of 1964 Sargent Shriver
Sargent Shriver
Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr., known as Sargent Shriver, R. Sargent Shriver, or, from childhood, Sarge, was an American statesman and activist. As the husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he was part of the Kennedy family, serving in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations...

, President Kennedy's brother-in-law, forcefully told Warnecke that "There must be something there when we get there." This spurred the design efforts forward. In the late summer and early fall, Warnecke considered massive headstones, a sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

, a sunken tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

, a raised tomb, and sculpture to mark the graves. Very late in the design process, two abstract
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

 sculptures were designed but ultimately rejected.
The final design was unveiled publicly at the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

 in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, on November 13, 1964. Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

 unveiled the design, with the president's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, DSG a member of the Kennedy family, sister to President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy, was the founder in 1962 of Camp Shriver, and in 1968, the Special Olympics...

, in attendance. The final design had won the approval of the Kennedy family, the Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

, the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission
National Capital Planning Commission
The National Capital Planning Commission is a U.S. government agency that provides planning guidance for Washington, D.C. and the surrounding National Capital Region...

. Two overarching design concerns guided the design of the site. First, Warnecke intended the grave itself to reflect the early New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 tradition of a simple headstone
Headstone
A headstone, tombstone, or gravestone is a marker, usually stone, that is placed over a grave. In most cases they have the deceased's name, date of birth, and date of death inscribed on them, along with a personal message, or prayer.- Use :...

 set flat in the ground surrounded by grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

. Second, the site was designed to reflect President Kennedy's Catholic faith. As originally envisioned, a circular granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 walkway was envisioned which would create two approaches to the grave site. The walkways were intended to overcome the steep 45-degree incline of the hill up to the burial plot. President Kennedy was buried so that his grave faced northeast toward the Washington Monument
Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington...

. The entrance to the circular walkway was from the southeast, which created a southern, shorter leg of the circular walkway. Warnecke intended for this shorter walkway to be used by family members and dignitaries who were making private visits to the grave, while the longer walkway would not only separate the public from these VIPs
Very Important Person
A Very Important Person, or VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance.Examples include celebrities, heads of state/heads of government, major employers, high rollers, politicians, high-level corporate officers, wealthy individuals, or any other...

 but also accommodate the long lines of people wishing to pay their respects. A small elliptical plaza (120 feet (36.6 m) long and 50 feet (15.2 m) wide) made of marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 was set at the top of and inside the circle. The northeastern side of the elliptical plaza would be enclosed by a low wall inscribed with quotes from Kennedy's speeches. Marble steps would lead up from the plaza to a rectangular terrace 66 feet (20.1 m) long and 42 feet (12.8 m) wide. Flowering magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol....

 trees would be planted on either side of the steps up to the terrace. Centered in the terrace would be a rectangular plot of grass 30 feet (9.1 m) long and 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, raised slightly above the ground level, which would accommodate the graves. Flat black slate grave markers (3 foot (0.9144 m) by 4.53 feet (1.4 m)) would mark each grave, listing the name and date of birth and death in raised lettering. The headstones would be set flush with the earth. A 7.5 feet (2.3 m) high and 36 feet (11 m) long retaining wall, inscribed with the presidential seal
Seal of the President of the United States
The Seal of the President of the United States is used to mark correspondence from the U.S. president to the United States Congress, and is also used as a symbol of the presidency. The central design, based on the Great Seal of the United States, is the official coat of arms of the U.S...

, formed the rear of the burial site. The walkways, elliptical plaza, and terrace were designed to accommodate more than 50,000 visitors per day. The eternal flame itself would be placed in the center of the grassy plot in a flat, triangular bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 sculpture intended to resemble a votive candle
Votive candle
A votive candle or prayer candle is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering in a religious ceremony. It now also refers to a standard size of candle two inches high by one and a half inches diameter, of any color or scent.-Christian use:Candles...

 or brazier
Brazier
A brazier is a container for fire, generally taking the form of an upright standing or hanging metal bowl or box. Used for holding burning coal as well as fires, a brazier allows for a source of light, heat, or cooking...

. Rachel Lambert Mellon
Rachel Lambert Mellon
Rachel "Bunny" Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon is an American horticulturalist, gardener, philanthropist, fine arts collector, member of the International Best Dressed List, and widow of philanthropist, art collector, thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder, and banking heir Paul Mellon.-Background:Known...

 was employed to landscape the approaches with flowering trees (magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol....

, cherry, and hawthorn). At the time of the design's unveiling, the quotations for the low wall had not yet been selected by Mrs. Kennedy. The original design won near-universal praise.

Construction of the new gravesite



The plan was for work to begin in the fall of 1965 and be completed by the fall of 1966. The design required that the bodies of President Kennedy and his children be moved downhill about 20 feet (6.1 m). A 150-year-old oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 tree, which was off-center in the circular pathway, was to be retained. The total estimated cost of the tomb was estimated at $2 million. The Kennedy family offered to pay for the entire cost, but the U.S. government refused and asked them to pay only the $200,000-$300,000 cost of the grave itself. Most of the cost was attributed to the need to reinforce and strengthen the site to accommodate the weight of such large crowds. The U.S. Department of Defense formally hired Warnecke to design the approaches (although this was a fait accompli).

Work on the John F. Kennedy burial site continued over the next two and a half years. The Washington Gas and Light Company offered to build, maintain, and supply gas to the eternal flame at no expense. The final burner was a specially designed torch created by the Institute of Gas Technology
Gas Technology Institute
The Gas Technology Institute is an American non-profit research and development organization which develops, demonstrates, and licenses new energy technologies for private and public clients, with a particular focus on the natural gas industry. GTI is located in Des Plaines, Illinois.-History:The...

 with an electrical ignition which kept the flame lit in wind or rain and which fed the gas oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 to create the correct color. A debate broke out between providers of bottled propane gas and line-fed natural gas as to which source of fuel should be used to supply the eternal flame. The debate was so vigorous that it broke out in public in March 1964. The cost of construction of the approaches, elliptical plaza, walls were estimated at $1.77 million in February 1965. The cost of construction of the actual grave site was estimated at $309,000. Fifteen firms were invited to bid on the construction contract and nine did so. A $1.4 million contract for construction was awarded to Aberthaw Construction in mid-July of 1965. The Army Corps of Engineers consulted with the Kennedy family before letting the award. A second contract for structural design consulting in the amount of $71,026 went to Ammann & Whitney
Ammann & Whitney
Ammann & Whitney is a full-service architecture and engineering firm that provides design and construction services for public and private sector projects...

. At this time, contracts for the quotation inscriptions, the marble base for the flame, the bronze brazier, and the slate markers had yet to be let. The white marble for the plaza, terrace, and steps came from Proctor, Vermont
Proctor, Vermont
-Notable people:* Bernard Joseph Flanagan, bishop* F. Ray Keyser, governor of Vermont* Frank Charles Partridge, senator* Fletcher Dutton Proctor, governor of Vermont* Mortimer Robinson Proctor, governor of Vermont...

, and the granite for the approaches came from Deer Isle, Maine
Deer Isle, Maine
Deer Isle is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,876 at the 2000 census. Notable landmarks in Deer Isle are the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the town's many art galleries.-History:...

.

Prior to construction, several design changes were made to the Kennedy grave site. The retaining wall behind the grave was removed, and the hill landscaped to allow an unobstructed view of Arlington House. Concerned that the grass on the burial plot would wither in Washington's hot summers, in the fall of 1966 the decision was made to replace the grass with rough-hewn reddish-gold granite fieldstone
Fieldstone
Fieldstone is a building construction material. Strictly speaking, it is stone collected from the surface of fields where it occurs naturally...

 set in a flagstone
Flagstone
Flagstone, is a generic flat stone, usually used for paving slabs or walkways, patios, fences and roofing. It may be used for memorials, headstones, facades and other constructions. The name derives from Middle English flagge meaning turf, perhaps from Old Norse flaga meaning slab.Flagstone is a...

 pattern. The fieldstones used had been taken more than 150 years ago from a quarry
Quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

 on Cape Cod
Cape Cod
Cape Cod, often referred to locally as simply the Cape, is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States...

 near where President Kennedy used to spend his summers. The burial plot, originally designed to be raised a substantial height above the surrounding terrace, was lowered so that it was just three to four inches higher. The bronze brazier shape for the eternal flame was also replaced. Instead, a 5 feet (1.5 m) wide beige circular fieldstone (found on Cape Cod in 1965) was set nearly flush with the earth and used as a bracket for the flame.
Construction of the approaches required regrading the hill. Crews were forced to work with picks
Pickaxe
A pickaxe or pick is a hand tool with a hard head attached perpendicular to the handle.Some people make the distinction that a pickaxe has a head with a pointed end and a flat end, and a pick has both ends pointed, or only one end; but most people use the words to mean the same thing.The head is...

 and shovels around the oak tree to protect its roots while engaged in regrading work. The tree's roots were reinforced with concrete to provide stability to the plant, and a "breathing system" incorporated into the concrete to allow the roots to still secure nourishment. Twenty tons of steel were used to build the terrace, and 280 tons of concrete poured to build the grave vaults and the eternal flame site. The first fieldstones for the graves were placed April 11, 1966. At the same time, the ground was prepared for the emplacement of the granite blocks which would form the low memorial wall on the downslope side of the elliptical plaza. Mrs. Kennedy, with assistance of Kennedy speechwriter
Speechwriter
A speechwriter is a person who is hired to prepare and write speeches that will be delivered by another person. Speechwriters are used by many senior-level elected officials and executives in the government and private sectors.-Skills and training:...

 Ted Sorenson, selected the inscriptions for the wall by November 1965, all of which came from Kennedy's inaugural address
Inaugural address of John F. Kennedy
U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivered his only inaugural address at 12:51 Friday, January 20, 1961, immediately after taking the presidential oath of office administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren.-Background:...

 (although some were shortened for artistic reasons). John E. Benson
John Benson (artisan)
John Everett Benson , known as Fud, is a calligrapher, stonecarver and typeface designer who has created inscriptions for monuments including the John F. Kennedy memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, the National Gallery of Art, and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.John Benson was born in...

 inscribed the quotations onto the seven granite blocks. In November 1965, the contractors estimated that the site would be finished by July 1966. The government announced that the bodies of the President and his two children would be reburied in private ceremony at night after cemetery had closed the day before the site was opened to the public. For a time in the fall of 1966, the Army considered floodlighting the site to permit night-time ceremonies, but this plan was quickly discarded. In mid-October 1966, design changes and construction delays had forced the opening of the new burial site to early 1967.

On October 18, 1966, The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

reported that U.S. Army had announced that the President and his children would be reburied before November 22, 1966, in order to dedicate the memorial in time for the third anniversary of his assassination. This report turned out to be false, and the story was retracted the following day.

Consecration of the new grave


The permanent John F. Kennedy grave site opened with little announcement or fanfare on March 15, 1967. A few days before, the eternal flame had been moved from its temporary location to the new site. The reburial of the bodies occurred on the evening of March 14, after Arlington National Cemetery had closed. The event was unannounced. The transfer was witnessed by newly elected Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston. Exhumation began at 6:19 PM and was complete at 9:00 PM. Consecration
Consecration
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

 of the new burial site occurred at 7:00 AM on March 15, 1967, in a driving rain. The ceremony, which took 20 minutes, was attended by President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

, Mrs. Kennedy, and members of the Kennedy family. Cardinal Cushing presided over the consecration. The final cost of the entire project was $2.2 million.

Landscaping around the permanent site was not complete at the time of its consecration, and continued for several more weeks.

Operation of the site


One spontaneous act of respect at the site had to be curbed almost immediately. Jacqueline Kennedy had requested that a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) be part of the military honor squad at President Kennedy's burial service. She specifically asked that the Special Forces soldier wear a green beret rather than formal Army headgear. After the funeral, the six military personnel in the honor guard (Army, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, Marine
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

, Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

, and Special Forces) had spontaneously removed their hats and laid them on the evergreen boughs around the eternal flame. Also laid on the greenery were the insignia of a U.S. Army military policeman and the shoulder braid from a soldier in the 3rd US Infantry Regiment
3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)
The 3rd United States Infantry Regiment is a regiment of the US Army. It currently has three active battalions, and is readily identified by its nickname, The Old Guard, as well as Escort to the President. The regimental motto is Noli Me Tangere...

. The presence of the headgear was widely criticized after the dedication of the permanent grave site, and the U.S. Army (which administers Arlington National Cemetery) ordered all such memorabilia removed from the grave in April 1967.

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated
Robert F. Kennedy assassination
The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California...

 on June 6, 1968. An expansion to the John F. Kennedy grave site was dedicated in 1971 to accommodate Robert Kennedy's grave. Robert F. Kennedy's resting place is only about 50 feet (15.2 m) southwest from the terrace at the John F. Kennedy site. Robert Kennedy is buried on the upslope side of the walkway, his burial vault marked by a white cross and a slate headstone set flush with the earth. Opposite his grave is a granite plaza designed by architect I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei
Ieoh Ming Pei , commonly known as I. M. Pei, is a Chinese American architect, often called a master of modern architecture. Born in Canton, China and raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pei drew inspiration at an early age from the gardens at Suzhou...

 and dedicated on December 6, 1971. A low granite wall similar to the one at the John F. Kennedy terrace contains quotations from famous Robert F. Kennedy speeches, and a small reflecting pool. As with his brother, Robert Kennedy's first grave was a temporary one, about 10 feet (3 m) upslope from its current location.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was buried at the site alongside her husband following her death from cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in May 1994. Senator Edward M. Kennedy was buried about 100 feet (30.5 m) south of Robert Kennedy's memorial between two maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 trees shortly after his death on August 25, 2009, from brain cancer.

Maintenance of the eternal flame is an ongoing issue. Arlington National Cemetery experts said in 2001 that it cost about $200 a month to keep the flame burning. As of 2010, Fenwal Controls, a gas equipment manufacturer based in Boston, was the contractor responsible for maintaining the flame. The custom-manufactured ignition system is contained within a weather-proof box buried a few feet from the grave site. This system controls the flow of gas, monitors the flame, and keeps the flame lit via a high-voltage
Voltage
Voltage, otherwise known as electrical potential difference or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points — or the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points...

 cable and 20,000-volt
Volt
The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

 spark ignition
Ignition system
An ignition system is a system for igniting a fuel-air mixture. Ignition systems are well known in the field of internal combustion engines such as those used in petrol engines used to power the majority of motor vehicles, but they are also used in many other applications such as in oil-fired and...

 electrode
Electrode
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

 near the gas burner
Gas burner
A gas burner is a device to generate a flame to heat up products using a gaseous fuel such as acetylene, natural gas or propane. Some burners have an air inlet to mix the fuel gas with air to make a complete combustion...

. No longer constantly sparking to keep the flame lit, the system monitors the flame and activates the ignition system only when the flame goes out. The electrode is specially designed for outdoor use. The system is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has contracted with Fenwal Controls to ensure it is maintained and upgrades are made as needed. According to Arlington National Cemetery historian Tom Sherlock, when the gas burner requires maintenance the flame is shut off. But maintenance needs are so minimal that no living Fenwal Controls employee has seen the interior of the ignition system. An on-site visit was planned by Fenwal Controls workers for early 2010 to inspect the eternal flame and conduct a review of the ignition and burner systems.

The eternal flame has been extinguished a few times by accident. On December 10, 1963, a group of Catholic schoolchildren were sprinkling the temporary flame with holy water
Holy water
Holy water is water that, in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and some other churches, has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, the blessing of persons, places, and objects; or as a means of repelling evil.The use for baptism and...

. The cap came off the bottle and water poured onto the flame, putting it out. A cemetery official quickly relit the flame by hand. In August 1967, an exceptionally heavy rain extinguished the permanent flame. A nearby electrical transformer
Transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

 flooded as well, depriving the spark igniter of power and preventing the flame from being relit. After the rain ended, a cemetery official relit the flame by hand. Two of the gravesite's flagstones had to be removed to access the transformer and repair it.

The 220-year-old "Arlington Oak" which stood off-center within the Kennedy memorial gravesite area was uprooted and killed on August 27, 2011, during Hurricane Irene
Hurricane Irene (2011)
Hurricane Irene was a large and powerful Atlantic hurricane that left extensive flood and wind damage along its path through the Caribbean, the United States East Coast and as far north as Atlantic Canada in 2011...

. The gravesite was closed to the public for two days to remove the tree and stump, but reopened on August 30.

Cultural impact


Immediately after Kennedy's burial, the eternal flame was being visited by 50,000 people per day. More than 16 million people visited the site in its first three years. In 1971, the grave attracted more than 7 million people.

The presence of the grave also boosted attendance at Arlington National Cemetery. The president's 1963 funeral had been televised live, with 93 percent of all American homes watching. Satellites beamed the proceedings to another 23 countries, where another 600 million viewers watched. The television coverage transformed Arlington National Cemetery from a quiet veterans' cemetery into one of the Washington area's most popular tourist attractions. Average yearly attendance rose from 1 million people in 1962 to 9 million in the first six months of 1964.


In 1964, the United States Post Office Department
United States Post Office Department
The Post Office Department was the name of the United States Postal Service when it was a Cabinet department. It was headed by the Postmaster General....

 used an image of the eternal flame on an official postage stamp
Five cents John Kennedy
The five cents John Kennedy is the first United States postage stamp to pay tribute to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was issued May 29, 1964 for his 47th birthday, with a first day of issue cancellation in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts....

 issued to commemorate the assassinated president. The stamp also used the words "And the glow from that fire can truly light the world"—an excerpt from Kennedy's inaugural address.

The Kennedy eternal flame has also attracted some unwanted attention as well. The leader of a group protesting segregation in housing was nearly arrested at the grave site in August 1967 after attempting to lead a group of protesters in the singing of "America the Beautiful
America the Beautiful
"America the Beautiful" is an American patriotic song. The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates and the music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward....

". A 23-year-old Army veteran committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 at the grave in 1972 by plunging a knife into his chest. The cross and the headstone marking Robert F. Kennedy's grave were stolen in 1981 and never recovered. In December 1982, an intoxicated Salvadoran
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

 immigrant broke into the cemetery at night and knelt before the eternal flame. He had a heart attack
Cardiac arrest
Cardiac arrest, is the cessation of normal circulation of the blood due to failure of the heart to contract effectively...

, fell into the flame, and was burned to death.

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