The Design of the Harding Memorial
The Harding Memorial is a circular monument of white marble and is suggestive of a round, Greek temple. Unlike a temple, though, there is neither a doorway nor a roof. Instead, it forms an open court described as a “cloister.” Being open to the sky provides space for a garden plot surrounding the tomb and honors President Harding’s wishes to be buried in a simple grave under a tree and under the stars.
A Greek Ionic colonnade stands in front of the circular wall forming the open court. The columns of this structure support a terrace filled with green plants and shrubbery. The two black granite tombstones, decorated only by two bronze wreaths at the heads of each stone, indicate the resting places of President Warren G. Harding and his wife, Florence Harding. The President’s wreath is designed with palm leaves, and Mrs. Harding’s wreath is adorned with roses. A bed of ivy covers the ground surrounding the tombstones. Enclosing the entire court and colonnade is a stance of 46 Doric Greek columns, stunning and majestic. The plan originally called for 48 columns, one for each state in Harding’s era, but money fell short and the design was amended.
The setting of the monument is open and uncluttered. Rows of elm trees form the shape of the Latin cross, with the tomb placed at the intersection of the arms of the cross. The main approach follows the tree of the cross. Behind the elms are clusters of trees and shrubbery.
The entire memorial is built of Georgia white marble, furnished by the Georgia Marble Company of Tate, Georgia; the only variation from the plain, white marble is in the floor, where gray and white squares produce a mosaic style.
Henry Hombostel and Eric F. Wood of Pittsburgh, Pa., were the architects of the monument, and the structure cost $783,103.
The History of the Harding Memorial
On Oct. 11, 1923, shortly after President Harding’s death in August, the newly formed Harding Memorial Association started a nationwide fund-raising campaign to fund construction of a memorial.
Over a million contributors from all parts of the United States and the Philippines, as well as several European countries, contributed the sum of $977,821. Included in the list of contributors were about 200,000 schoolchildren who gathered pennies for the fund-raising effort.
While funds were being raised, the association also had to decide whether the memorial would be built in Washington, D.C., or in Marion. Many national leaders wanted the President buried in the nation’s capital. The memorial association, though, strongly felt that Harding would have preferred Marion as his final resting place.
Following President Harding’s death on Aug. 2, 1923, and his subsequent funeral, his body was placed in the Receiving Vault in Marion Cemetery until the memorial was completed. Florence died in 1924, and her body also was placed in the vault. The Hardings’ bodies were moved to the memorial and buried there in December 1927. President Herbert Hoover officially dedicated the memorial in 1931.
The Memorial was owned and supervised by the Harding Memorial Association from 1926 until 1979. In 1979, ownership of the Memorial, along with the Harding Home, was transferred to the State of Ohio. The Harding Memorial, Harding Home, and the Warren G. Harding Presidential Library and Museum are managed by the Ohio History Connection.
Public Use of the Harding Memorial and Rental Guidelines
Public Use of the Harding Memorial
The Harding Memorial houses the gravesites of President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. The site is public, but as with any public site, guidelines apply for its use. The Harding Memorial Presidential Gravesite encompasses the Memorial structure itself, as well as the 10 acres surrounding it. The following guidelines apply to the entire 10-acre site. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the gravesite, read the educational kiosk panels about the history of the site, and take photos of their visit. When viewing the gravesites in the Memorial, silence and respect are to be observed. At this historical gravesite:
1. Look around; explore
2. Take photographs for personal use
3. Keep pets on short leash and clean up after them. Please do not allow them on the Memorial structure itself.
4. Visit only during daylight hours year-round
Please, for the enjoyment of everyone, do not:
2. Use alcohol or controlled substances
3. Use metal detectors
4. Use drones
5. Ride bicycles, use roller-blades or skateboards
6. Park vehicles overnight
7. Disturb animals or plants
8. Remove or damage grounds, structures, natural and archaeological features
9. Drive heavy equipment, cars or trucks on sidewalks and lawns.
10. Engage in partisan political activities
11. Engage in recreational activities
12. Solicit funds
13. Engage in commercial activities
14. Operate a public address system in connection with a public event or special event without prior approval.
15. Place advertising, political or sale signs on the grounds or on the treelawns adjacent to the Memorial grounds.
16. Attach anything to the Memorial structure, either permanently or temporarily.
Public Use of the Harding Memorial and/or grounds
The Harding Memorial and grounds are extremely visible to the Marion community, and are a source of pride for our residents. Marionites, therefore, are protective of it. We encourage visitors to take photos and enjoy the setting. Partisan political gatherings are not permitted; participants are asked to exercise their rights to free speech only on the public sidewalks near the street. Small weddings are permitted at the site, with prior permission from the Harding Sites. Any gathering which impedes the public’s ability to use the parking lots or hampers the public’s ability to visit the Memorial structure is asked to first contact the Sites at 800-600-6894 or 740-387-9630, both as a courtesy to the Sites staff and to gather necessary information about guidelines.
Because the Harding Memorial is a presidential gravesite, the public is asked to ensure that their spontaneous and organized activities are appropriate and respectful of the setting. Your gathering must not detract from the mission of the Harding Memorial Presidential Gravesite, which is to respect, honor and educate others about our 29th President and First Lady.