Edited by Gerald Boerner
The National Mall is the site of our nation’s tribute to our leaders and warriors from our biggest wars. Today we are celebrating the building and dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. It reminds us of his greatness through his Statue and words from some of his greatest addresses. Included is the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. Located nearby are the World War II Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial , and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This is a very consecrated site!
On this Memorial Day, let us take a minute to say a special prayer to thos dedicated soldiers from all of our past and present wars. We live in a free country because of the sacrifices made by the men celebrated by these memorials. Let us, above all, remember that ultimate sacrifice made by the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.
“The National Mall is an open-area national park in downtown Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The National Mall is a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), and is administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parks unit. The term "National Mall" commonly includes areas that are officially part of West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardens to the west, and often is taken to refer to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, with the Washington Monument providing a division slightly west of the center. The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year.” (Wikipedia)
Now, let’s plunge into our exploration of the building and dedication of the Lincoln Memorial… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 4109 Words ]
Quotations Related to MEMORIAL:
“And there’s the Victoria Memorial, built as a memorial to Victoria.”
— David Dimbleby
“Every memorial in its time has a different goal.”
— Maya Lin
“For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial.”
“As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s wars.”
— John M. McHugh
“Here is also to be noted, that the cause of the institution was to be a memorial, to testify that Christ’s body was given, and his blood shed for us.”
— William Tyndale
“It’s about how to bring together the seemingly contradictory aspects of the memorial, which is about a tragedy and how it changed the world, but also about creating a vital and beautiful city of the 21st century.”
— Daniel Libeskind
“My research, even before 1972, moved in directions beyond those cited for the Nobel Memorial Prize. Most of it, in one way or another, deals with information as an economic variable, both as to its production and as to its use.”
— Kenneth Joseph Arrow
“There will be a competition for the memorial. And then it can be developed with trees, with planting. It can become a very beautiful place protected from the streets, because it is below. And it can be something very moving and very private.”
— Daniel Libeskind
National Mall: The Lincoln Memorial Dedicated in 1922…
The Lincoln Memorial is an American memorial built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor of the main statue (Abraham Lincoln, 1920) was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior murals was Jules Guerin. It is one of several monuments built to honor an American president.
The building is in the form of a Greek Doric temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on August 28, 1963 during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Like other monuments on the National Mall – including the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and National World War II Memorial – the memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since October 15, 1966. It is open to the public 24 hours a day. In 2007, it was ranked seventh on the List of America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
History of the Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial, designed after the temples of ancient Greece, is significant as America’s foremost memorial to their 16th president, as a totally original example of neoclassical architecture, and as the formal terminus to the extended National Mall in accordance with the McMillan Plan for the monumental core of Washington.
Demands for a fitting memorial had been voiced since the time of Lincoln’s death. In 1867, Congress heeded these demands and passed the first of many bills incorporating a commission to erect a monument for the sixteenth president. An American, Clark Mills, was chosen to design the monument. His plans reflected the bombastic nationalistic spirit of the age. His design called for a 70-foot (21 m) structure adorned with six equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues of colossal proportions, crowned by a 12-foot (3.7 m) statue of Abraham Lincoln. However, subscriptions for the project were insufficient and its future fell into doubt.
The matter lay dormant until the turn of the century, when, under the leadership of Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois, six separate bills were introduced to Congress for the incorporation of a new memorial commission. The first five bills, proposed in the years 1901, 1902, and 1908, met with defeat; however, the final bill (Senate Bill 9449), introduced on December 13, 1910, passed. The Lincoln Memorial Commission had its first meeting the following year and President William H. Taft was chosen as president. Progress continued at a steady pace and by 1913 Congress had approved of the Commission’s choice of design and location. However, this approval was far from unanimous. Many thought that architect Henry Bacon’s Greek temple design was far too ostentatious for a man of Lincoln’s humble character. Instead they proposed a simple log cabin shrine. The site too did not go unopposed. The recently reclaimed land in West Potomac Park was seen by many to be either too swampy or too inaccessible. Other sites, such as Union Station, were put forth. The Commission stood firm in its recommendation though, feeling that the Potomac Park location, situated on the Washington Monument-Capitol axis, overlooking the Potomac River and surrounded by open land, was an ideal site. Furthermore, the Potomac Park site had already been designated in the McMillan Plan of 1901 to be the location of a future monument comparable to that of the Washington Monument.
With Congressional approval and a $300,000 allocation, the project got underway. On February 12, 1914, an inauspicious dedication ceremony was conducted and following month the actual construction began. Work progressed steadily according to schedule. However a few changes did have to be made. The statue of Lincoln, originally designed to be 10 feet (3.0 m) tall, was later enlarged to 19 feet (5.8 m) to prevent it from being dwarfed by its huge chamber. As late as 1920, the decision was made to substitute an open portal for the bronze and glass grille which was to have guarded the entrance. Despite these changes, the Memorial was finished on schedule. In a May 30 celebration in 1922, Commission president William H. Taft dedicated the Memorial and presented it to President Warren G. Harding, who accepted it for the American people. Lincoln’s only remaining son, 79 year old Robert Todd Lincoln, was in attendance.
The Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.
The exterior of the Memorial echoes a classic Greek temple and features Yule marble. The structure measures 189.7 by 118.5 feet (57.8 by 36.1 m) and is 99 feet (30 m) tall. It is surrounded by a peristyle of 36 fluted Doric columns, one for each of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death, and two columns in-antis at the entrance behind the colonnade. The columns stand 44 feet (13 m) tall with a base diameter of 7.5 feet (2.3 m). Each column is built from 12 drums including the capital. The columns, like the exterior walls and façades, are inclined slightly toward the building’s interior. This is to compensate for perspective distortions which would otherwise make the Memorial appear asymmetrical.
Above the colonnade, inscribed on the frieze, are the names of the 36 states and the dates in which they entered the Union. Their names are separated by double wreath medallions in bas-relief. The cornice is composed of a carved scroll regularly interspersed with projecting lions’ heads and ornamented with palmetto cresting along the upper edge. Above this on the attic frieze are inscribed the names of the 48 states present at the time of the Memorial’s dedication. A bit higher is a garland joined by ribbons and palm leaves, supported by the wings of eagles. All ornamentation on the friezes and cornices was done by Ernest C. Bairstow.
The Memorial is anchored in a concrete foundation, 44 to 66 feet (13 to 20 m) in depth, constructed by M. F. Comer and Company and the National Foundation and Engineering Company, and is encompassed by a 187-by-257-foot (57 by 78 m) rectangular granite retaining wall measuring 14 feet (4.3 m) in height.
Leading up to the shrine on the east side are the main steps. Beginning at the edge of the Reflecting Pool, the steps rise to the Lincoln Memorial Circle roadway surrounding the edifice, then to the main portal, intermittently spaced with a series of platforms. Flanking the steps as they approach the entrance are two buttresses each crowned with an 11-foot (3.4 m) tall tripod carved from pink Tennessee marble by the Piccirilli Brothers.
The interior of the Memorial is divided into three chambers by two rows of Ionic columns. These columns, four in each row, are 50 feet (15 m) tall and 5.5 feet (1.7 m) in diameter at their base. The north and south side chambers contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his Gettysburg Address. There was an error in the engraving of the second inaugural address. In the line, "With high hope for the future," the "F" of the word future was originally carved as an "E". To cover the mistake, the bottom line of the E is not painted in. Bordering these inscriptions are pilasters ornamented with fasces, eagles, and wreaths. The inscriptions and adjoining ornamentation were done by Evelyn Beatrice Longman.
Above each of the inscriptions is a 60-by-12-foot (18 by 3.7 m) mural painted by Jules Guerin graphically portraying governing principles evident in Lincoln’s life. On the south wall mural, Freedom, Liberty, Immortality, Justice, and the Law are pictured, while the north wall portrays Unity, Fraternity, and Charity. Both scenes contain a background of cypress trees, the emblem of Eternity. The murals were crafted with a special mixture of paint which included elements of kerosene and wax to protect the exposed artwork from fluctuations in temperature and moisture conditions.
The ceiling of the Memorial, 60 feet (18 m) above the floor, is composed of bronze girders, ornamented with laurel and oak leaves. Between the girders are panels of Alabama marble, saturated with paraffin to increase their translucency. Despite the increased light from this device, Bacon and French felt the statue required even more light. They decided upon an artificial lighting system in which a louvered lighting panel would be set in the ceiling with metal slats to conceal the great floodlights. Custodians could adjust the lights from a control room varying them according to the outside light. Funds for this expensive system were appropriated by Congress in 1926, and in 1929, seven years after the dedication, the statue was properly lighted. Since that time, only one major alteration has taken place in the Memorial’s design. This was the addition of an elevator within the structure to aid handicapped visitors, which was installed in the mid-1970s.
Evolution of the Lincoln Memorial
(from… Lincoln Memorial Web Site at: http://www.nps.gov/linc/historyculture/stories.htm)
During his presidency and in the wake of his assassination, sculptors had only begun to capture the character and form of Abraham Lincoln. Notable efforts had included those of 17-year old Vinnie Ream who had observed Lincoln in half-hour sittings through the winter of 1864-1865. She later won a Congressional commission for a full-length marble statue unveiled to applause in the Capitol in 1871. Sculptor Lot Flannery and President Andrew Johnson unveiled a marble statue of Lincoln in 1868 at Judiciary Square. With Lincoln commemorative efforts rising across the Union, Congress soon sought to create a larger national memorial.
On the model of the Washington National Monument Society, Congress passed legislation to create a Lincoln Monument Association in 1867. The Association commissioned sculptor Clark Mills to create for the northeast corner of the Capitol grounds a monument “commemorative of the great charter of emancipation and universal liberty in America.” Mills proposed a multi-tiered, 36-figure, bronze sculpted monument that would a have at its peak a seated Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Although a national fund-raising effort was begun, for political and practical reasons, the Association and Mills never finished this monument.
Senator James McMillan served as chairman of the Senate District of Columbia Committee. Facing opposition in the House of Representatives to a joint resolution, Senator McMillan in 1900, in recognizing the centennial of the arrival of the United States capital to what is now Washington, District of Columbia, formed the Senate Park Commission. The commission was to plan an integrated park system for the Nation’s Capital. The Senate Park Commission members included Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., landscape architect; Augustus St. Gaudens, sculptor; Daniel Burnham, architect; and Charles McKim, architect.
The Senate Park Commission Plan, published in 1902, called for a Lincoln Memorial at the new Potomac River edge that would serve as the terminus of an expanded National Mall across the recently created West Potomac Park. In effect, this Lincoln Memorial would serve as a gateway, at the foot of a new Arlington Memorial Bridge, to the Capitol and the District of Columbia, and to an expanded park system (including Rock Creek Park).
If the river was a dividing line between Union and Confederate spheres during the Civil War, the Memorial Bridge would link the Custis-Lee Mansion and Arlington National Cemetery with the Lincoln Memorial in a manner that symbolically might reinforce the national reconciliation and reunification that Lincoln had so nobly sought. In its own right, the proposed Memorial would elevate Lincoln through its simplicity, dignity, strength, and beauty in proportion and in classical form. The Commission would illuminate Lincoln’s character through sculpture and through his own eloquent speech inscribed within.
Gaining Congressional approval of the Senate Park Commission Plan, and obtaining legislation to build the proposed Lincoln Memorial at the Potomac River edge was to take a decade amidst political challenges and the consideration of many other Lincoln Memorial concepts, including a Memorial Road from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the capital. To aid the process, Congress passed legislation in 1910 to create a U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
The Commission of Fine Arts mandate was to advise the government with regard to statues, fountains, and monuments on District of Columbia public sites. President William Howard Taft appointed the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts members, including former members of the Senate Park Commission.
On February 9, 1911, Congress passed legislation to create a Lincoln Memorial Commission to advise on the location and construction of a new Lincoln Memorial. When the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts recommendations reinforced the Lincoln Memorial Commission published report on July 17, 1911, the Senate Park Commission backers finally had achieved the essential support necessary to build the Lincoln Memorial at the Potomac River edge.
Design & Symbolism
When visitors approach the memorial dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, many are taken aback by its majestic temple-like appearance. [Click to read more…]
Construction of the memorial
The Lincoln Memorial construction took place between 1914 and 1922. Work crews had completed most of the memorial architectural elements by April 1917 when the United States entered into the First World War, but work slowed as a result. Steady progress nonetheless was maintained on the interior decorations, granite terrace, approach plaza, and grounds landscaping. [Click to read more…]
On May 30, 1922, the Lincoln Memorial formally was dedicated, during an event witnessed by approximately 50,000 people. Leading the ceremony was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, William Howard Taft. Providing remarks and accepting the memorial on behalf of the nation was President Warren G. Harding. Dr. Robert Moton, president of the Tuskegee Institute, delivered the keynote address. Ironically, Moton spoke at the memorial for the Great Emancipator, before a largely segregated audience.
Myths about the memorial
Almost since its completion in 1922, the memorial to Abraham Lincoln has conjured up several myths associated with its architectural details. Whereas there are a few symbolic representations in the details, such as the thirty-six exterior columns representing the number of states at the time of his death, many more suggested symbols are pure myth.
Let us start with one of the more understandable myths about the memorial. Is Abraham Lincoln buried underneath, or entombed within, the stone structure? Given the purpose and design of the memorial, that is not an unreasonable assumption. However, after his death in 1865, Lincoln’s body was buried in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. His memorial construction was begun in 1914 with no plans to move his body.
When one visits the Memorial, one climbs several sets of granite and marble steps to reach the chamber containing the statue. Many visitors assume the 57 steps they climbed equal his age at his death; however, Lincoln was just 56 years old when he was killed in April 1865.
Now inside the chamber, the marble statue of President Lincoln, comfortably seated in a copy of a Roman Senate chair, appears in a grand fashion. Draped over the back of the chair is the U.S. Flag, a patriotic gesture in his time. Finally, standing between the entry columns to the chamber, Lincoln’s head is canted down a touch, so his eyes meet yours. Many people look at the back of Lincoln’s head, believing they will see an image of Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant, or Jefferson Davis. There are several wayward tufts of Lincoln’s wavy hair, but nothing more.
Another myth concerns Lincoln’s hands. Are they forming the American Sign Language symbols for his initials, A and L? The answer is no. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, used molds cast in 1860 of Lincoln’s hands to guide his work. Given that they both were in a fist-like arrangement, he decided to relax one of them so the statue would not look as tense.
French became so bothered by the growing myths that in the 1940s he wrote a letter to the National Park Service explaining his specific design features of the statue. Collectively, he merely wanted Lincoln to show his strength, resolve, and confidence in seeing the Nation through the Civil War.
Two of Lincoln’s important speeches are engraved onto the walls of the chamber; on the south wall is the Gettysburg Address, and on the north wall is his Second Inaugural Address. Quite often people ask about the misspelled word in the Second Inaugural Address, but there is none. The carver inadvertently carved a letter “E” where he meant to carve an “F”. Almost immediately, this error was corrected by filling in a portion of the carving yielding an “F”, forever removing any misspelled word.
View from the Lincoln Memorial
On Independence Day, 1848, Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Washington Monument at the western terminus of the Mall in Washington, D.C. The promise of the monument’s rise paralleled that of the nation as the Union continued to grow. Even as the Union pushed west, internal forces pulled it apart and exclusionary politics reigned. As a symbol of the lack of unity, the Washington Monument construction came to a halt after just six years and after completion of less than a third of its intended height. [Click to read more…]
Easter Sunday Concert
While not the most famous event at the Lincoln Memorial, this certainly was one of great importance and symbolic impact. In 1939, after being denied the opportunity to perform at nearby Constitution Hall because of her race, the great contralto Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial. Standing on the same steps, where years later Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. would speak, Anderson performed for a crowd of 75,000 people, who came to enjoy her incredible voice. Anderson wanted to share her talent and she availed herself of this opportunity provided by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The August 28, 1963 event that included a civil rights march from the Washington Monument Grounds along the Reflecting Pool to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 200,000 people journeyed to Washington, D.C. from all over the United States to exercise their First Amendment rights and demonstrate that full freedom and equality had yet to be enjoyed by all Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the most famous of the many speeches made that day.
“I Have a Dream” Speech
Ask most schoolchildren today and they can identify the Lincoln Memorial as the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The final speaker at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King talked of his dream that his children would grow up in a country where they would be free from racism. The speech is such a part of the Lincoln Memorial story, that the spot on which King stood was engraved in 2003 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the event.
Please take time to further explore more about Abraham Lincoln, National Mall, Henry
Bacon, Daniel Chester French, Jules Guerin, The Gettysburg Address, and Second
Inaugural Address by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases,
the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles;
footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…
Other Events on this Day:
Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto lands in Florida.
Future President Andrew Jackson kills landowner Charles Dickinson in a pistol duel in Logan, Ky., fought over Dickinson’s charges against Jackson’s integrity in a horse race bet and his insults against the honor of Jackon’s wife, Rachel. Jackson is also shot in the chest during the duel but recovers and is never prosecuted for killing Dickinson.
Memorial Day is widely observed for the first time.
In New York City the first recorded car accident occurs when a motor wagon collides with a bicycle.
Ray Harroun wins the first Indianapolis 500 race, driving a Marmom Wasp, equipped with the first rearview mirror, at an average speed of 74.6 mph over the 500-mile course.
Supreme Court Chief Justice and former President William Howard Taft dedicates the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Robert Todd Lincoln, the late president’s only surviving son, is an honored guest at the ceremony.
Unidentified soldiers killed in World War II and the Korean War are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Lincoln Memorial…
Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln…
Wikipedia: National Mall…
Wikipedia: Henry Bacon…
Wikipedia: Daniel Chester French…
Wikipedia: Jules Guerin…
Wikipedia: The Gettysburg Address…
Wikipedia: Second Inaugural Address…
Lincoln Memorial Web Site: The Lincoln Memorial National Memorial…
Brainy Quote: MEMORIAL Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Lincoln on Reverence for the Laws…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: The Lincoln Memorial…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address…