The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater is situated near the epicenter of Arlington National Cemetery. Designed by architect Thomas Hastings of New York, the structure consists of white Imperial Danby marble from Vermont. The Amphitheater is encircled by a series of arches and Doric columns.
Judge Ivory Kimball, a prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic fraternal organization, was a dedicated proponent for the Amphitheater. Judge Kimball envisioned a place where American citizens could pay homage to their defenders. He tirelessly lobbied Congress to apportion funds for the construction project. The appropriations were approved in 1913 during the Taft Administration. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson laid the Amphitheater’s cornerstone. It contains a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a Bible and thirteen other items. The Amphitheater dedication ceremony was on May 15, 1920. Although Judge Kimball took part in the groundbreaking ceremony, he died before his dream became a reality.
The Amphitheater was the location for the state funerals of General of the Army John “Black Jack” Pershing, Air Force General Henry “Hap” Arnold and the memorial service honoring the Unknown Soldiers entombed nearby.
This venue is the site of ceremonies each Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day honoring American service members who have died in the defense of this country. Every 20th and 21st century president has presided over at least one of these annual events.