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Constitution Gardens

Constitution Gardens is part of the National Mall in Washington, DC. The 50 acre park is located in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, bounded on the north by Constitution Avenue and on the south by the Reflecting Pool. Constitution Gardens has a small lake, which contains an island open to pedestrians.

The land that became Constitution Gardens was originally submerged beneath the Potomac River and was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century by the United States Army Corp of Engineers. The U.S. Navy built temporary offices on the land during World War I, which were demolished in 1971 due in part to lobbying by President Richard Nixon, who had served in the offices as a navy officer. President Nixon subsequently ordered that a park be established on the land, and in 1976, Constitution Gardens was finally dedicated as a "living legacy American Revolution Bicentennial tribute." It has been a separate park unit in the National Park Service since 1982, administered under the National Capitol Parks-Central (NACC).

In July of 1982, the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial was dedicated on the small island in the lake. On November 13 of the same year, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was also dedicated within Constitution Gardens. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the park a "living legacy tribute" to the Constitution on September 17, 1986 in honor of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution that year.

From March 17-19, 2003, Constitution Gardens was the site of a bizarre standoff between federal police and disgruntled tobacco farmer, Dwight Watson. Watson had driven his tractor into the center of the lake and claimed he had explosives, prompting the evacuation of the area and holding the FBI and U.S. Park Police at bay for 48 hours before he surrendered. During the standoff, Watson dug up part of the island and damaged a retaining wall (for which he received a conviction for destroying federal property) but apparently did not harm any of the monuments.

As part of the National Mall and home to famous monuments, Constitution Gardens continues to have millions of visitors every year. It is also the site of an annual naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens hosted by the National Park Service.