By 1930, there were monuments in Washington commemorating great United States presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. President Franklin Roosevelt thought that Thomas Jefferson also deserved a monument.
In 1934, following his initiative, Congress passed a resolution to create a monument commemorating Jefferson. The memorial was designed by John Russell Pope (1874 - 1937), the architect of the original (west) building of the National Gallery of Art. It reflects characteristics of buildings designed by Jefferson such as Monticello and the Rotunda, which were a result of his fascination with Roman architecture. It bears a close resemblance to the Pantheon of Rome. The cornerstone was laid in 1939 and the monument cost slightly more than $3 million. It was officially dedicated in 1943, after Pope's death. One of the last American public monuments in the Beaux-Arts tradition, it was severely criticised even as it was being built, by those who adhered to the modernist argument that dressing 20th-century buildings like Greek and Roman temples constituted a "tired architectural lie." More than 60 years ago, Pope responded with silence to critics who dismissed him as part of an enervated architectural elite practicing "styles that are safely dead".
The interior of the memorial has a 19 foot tall, 10,000 pound bronze statue of Jefferson which was added four years after the dedication, and the interior walls are engraved with passages from Jefferson's writings. The 129 foot dome is 4 feet thick and the memorial weighs 32,000 tons.