Abraham Lincoln Memorial - History
Although many a person thought about creating a memorial to honor our sixteenth president, the idea never came to fruition until two members of Congress who had known Lincoln in Illinois, pushed through a bill. President Taft signed the bill on Feb. 11, 1911.
As a result of the determination of Shelby M. Cullom and Joseph G. Cannon, the bill created the Lincoln Memorial Commission to oversee the project and set aside $2 million in funds. Construction for the memorial began in 1914, but it did not open to the public until 1922. It stands on the west end of the National Mall, facing east toward the reflecting pool.
The structure of the memorial resembles a Greek Temple and was designed by Henry Bacon. It has 36 Doric columns, one for each state at the time of Lincolns death. The building is 204 feet long, 134 feet wide, 99 feet tall, and each of the columns is 44 feet tall. Basically it is enormous!
The sculpture of Lincoln was designed by Daniel Chester French, the leading American sculpture at the time, and is in the center of the memorial chamber. It was carved in four years by the Piccirilli brothers under the supervision of French. The sculpture is 19 feet tall, and was carved out of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble. It also weighs an amazing 175 tons!
The Gettysburg Address is inscribed in the south wall of the monument. Above that is a mural, painted by Jules Guerin, of the angel of truth freeing a slave. On the north wall, Guerin also painted the Unity of North and South mural. Below that you will find an etching of Lincolns second inaugural speech. The final cost for the Abraham Lincoln Memorial totaled $3 million dollars.
Since the memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1922 (fifty-seven years after Lincoln died), it has been a place where American citizens can congregate to express their feelings about issues that continue to divide the country, as well as to celebrate our unity as a nation. Many famous speeches have been delivered there, including Martin Luther King, Jr.s famous I have a dream speech.
To insure that this very special place continues to stand for democracy and freedom, the entire structure is currently undergoing a major restoration. If you have not been there yet . . . go!
Source: National Park Service
Note: Read our article on Abraham Lincoln.