1. Decoration Day, 1919
As Decoration Day gained popularity and the numbers of visitors to the cemetery increased, the Army needed a suitable venue to host the large annual ceremony. A site for an amphitheater was chosen yards from the Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns, near Arlington House. Designed by Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, Arlington National Cemetery’s original amphitheater, now called Tanner Amphitheater, was built for Decoration Day 1873. Construction of the rostrum (platform stage) and elliptical brick and wood pergola had to be completed within a month. Final touches, such as plaster and paint, were added after Decoration Day.
This photo from 1919 depicts the last Decoration Day ceremony held in the original 1873 amphitheater. Some 50,000 people descended upon Arlington to decorate graves and to hear the memorial address by General John J. Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I.
Here, Osborn H. Oldroyd, assistant adjutant general of the Grand Army of the Republic, addressed the Decoration Day crowd . Army Chief of Staff Peyton C. March, in uniform, sat to Oldroyd’s left.
Although the National Memorial Day Observance and other major ceremonies have been held in Memorial Amphitheater since 1920, the 1873 amphitheater still stands. In 2014, as part of Arlington National Cemetery's 150th anniversary celebration, it was renamed the James Tanner Amphitheater in honor of Cpl. James R. Tanner, who was wounded in the Civil War and became a prominent advocate for veterans.