Nick Benson – carving inspiration in D.C.

“Hope” – it’s what we all need in these difficult times. This “hope” is a carving at the new Eisenhower Memorial, one of many inspiring words found all over D.C. The surprising thing is that most of the memorial carvings have been done by three generations of a single family, the Bensons.

Nick Benson carved the Eisenhower Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the WWII Memorial, recent dedications at the National Gallery of Art, plus some work at the Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral. Nick’s father carved the FDR Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, the date stones at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, and the JFK Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Nick’s grandfather carved the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Nick Benson carving dedications at the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art shortly before it reopened in 2016

Nick owns the John Stevens Shop in Rhode Island. The shop was founded in 1705 and run by the Stevens family for six generations, then Nick’s grandfather bought it in 1927 and the Bensons have been carving ever since.

The Bensons both design and carve their lettering, which allows them to craft letters that are customized for each memorial (note: their work is considered calligraphy, and is not the use of any specific font).

For the Eisenhower Memorial, Benson created Roman letterforms that were designed to reflect Eisenhower’s era in D.C.

Benson’s lettering at the Martin Luther King Memorial reflects a Greek style to reference King’s love of Greek philosophy, and is created to fit with the scale of the monument and the characteristics of the granite.

The writing on the WWII Memorial is an interpretation of Roman styles:

Benson says that he often looks to his father’s and his grandfather’s work for inspiration.

His father’s work at the FDR Memorial:

His grandfather’s work at Iwo Jima:

Find out more as Nick Benson describes his work and the history of his family’s engravings:

All photos copyright Victoria Pickering

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