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#56 – Historical Sites – The Lincoln Memorial

August 2, 2010

The first bill to create a monument to Abraham Lincoln was passed in 1867, two years after his death. The original plan was for a huge structure with six equestrian statues, 31 pedestrian statues and a 12-foot tall statue of Lincoln. But due to lack of funding, this project was abandoned. In 1910 a design and location was finally approved, and construction began in 1914.

Lincoln was originally to be 10 feet tall, but with the building modeled after a Greek temple, it was felt that he would be dwarfed within it; so his height was eventually increased to 19 feet (he sits on two platforms that are about 16 feet high, making the total height of the sculpture about 35 feet). The monument was dedicated in 1922 and was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Neat Stuff:

  • The columns and all of the exterior walls are inclined slightly towards the interior of the building so that from a distance it appears symmetrical.
  • Above the columns are the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death, and the dates they entered the Union. Above that are the names of the 48 states in the Union at the time of the dedication.
  • All of the stone and marble used is deliberately chosen from various states across the nation to represent the renewed unity that Lincoln brought to the country.
  • Lincoln is not carved from one piece of marble, but was carved in 28 different pieces and then assembled on site.
  • In 1929 flood lights were added so that Lincoln could be seen properly at any time of day in any weather, and the only alteration made since then was the addition of an elevator to aid physically-challenged visitors in the 1970s.
  • It’s not clear if it was intended by the sculptor, but Lincoln’s hands form an “A” and an “L” in American Sign Language. Others say that the clenched hand represents Lincoln’s determination during the Civil War, and the relaxed hand represents his welcome of the southern states back into the Union after the war was over.


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