Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, designed after the temples of ancient Greece, is America’s foremost memorial to the 16th president. It is an example of neoclassical architecture.

The building is in the form of a Greek temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. Setting on the National Mall, the monument stands as the nation’s tribute to one of their greatest leaders. It took from 1901 to 1914 for construction to begin. Everything in the monument has some sort of meaning to it.Lincoln has stood in the minds of American people as a symbol of honesty, integrity, and humanity. He was a confident leader, a caring humane soul and a visionary. His contribution for the betterment of the nation has been honored by Americans in the form of the Lincoln Memorial. From 1959 to 2008 the memorial is shown on the back of the penny, and on the front is Lincoln’s bust.

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The memorial can be seen also on the back five dollar bill. The statue of Lincoln can be seen in the monument.This was done to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. While he was president, sculptors sought to capture the character of Abraham Lincoln for a memorial. Efforts include were those of 17 year old Vinnie Ream who had observed Lincoln in only half hour sittings through the winter of 1864-1865. She later won a Congressional commission for a full length marble statue in the Capitol in 1871(Lemp, Woman’s Art Journal 24). While commemorative efforts rising across the Union, Congress soon sought to create a larger national memorial.

Even though there was a demand for a memorial to be dedicated to Lincoln, the construction didn’t begin until February 12, 1914. The Senate Park Commission, which was formed by Senator McMillan in 1900, had a plan in 1902 to for the memorial to be constructed at the new Potomac River edge and serve as the terminus of an expanded National Mall across the recently created West Potomac Park. The memorial would serve as a gateway, at the foot of a new Arlington Memorial Bridge, to the Capitol and the District of Columbia.If the Potomac River was a dividing line between the North and South during the Civil War, the Memorial Bridge would link the Custis Lee Mansion and the Arlington National Cemetery with the Lincoln Memorial in a manner that symbolically might reinforce the reconciliation and reunification that Lincoln had sought. This means that the Custis Lee Mansion and the Arlington Cemetery was part of the original estate of General Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Anna Custis who were southern and the memorial being the north.This would bring the north and south together.

Clark Mills was chosen first to design the memorial. His design was for a 70 foot structure with six equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues of colossal proportions, crowned by a 12 foot statue of Lincoln. However, the project was done away with.

The matter lay dormant until the turn of the century, when finally a final bill was introduced on December 13, 1910 and passed the Senate. Progress continued at a steady pace until 1913 when Congress approved the Commission’s choice of design and location.Henry Bacon was chosen to design the memorial ( Washington History 42). Many thought Bacon’s design of a Greek temple was too ostentatious for a man of Lincoln’s character. But the Commission stood firm on the idea, because there was finally enough support from the State Park Commission to build the memorial. With Congressional approval and $300,000 allocation, the project got underway on February 12, 1914. The final cost was actually 3 million dollars.

There was a dedication ceremony following the month after the actual construction began.Work progressed well although some changes were made. The statue of Lincoln was originally designed to be 10 feet tall, but was later enlarged to 19 feet to prevent it from being too small in the large chamber. Even with the changes, the Memorial was still finished on schedule. In May 1922 President Taft dedicated the Memorial and presented it to President Warren G.

Harding, who accepted it for the American people. The exterior of the Memorial is a classic Greek temple and has Yule marble. The structure is 189. 7 by 118. feet and is 99 feet tall. It is surrounded by 36 fluted Doric columns, one for each of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death, and 2 columns at the entrance behind the colonnade. The columns are 44 feet tall with a base diameter of 7. 5 feet each.

There are actually 58 steps leading up to the memorial on the east side, with 2 steps for each term he served and 56 for his age at the time of his assignation. Above the colonnade, are the names of the 36 states and dates in which they entered the Union.Above the attic frieze are inscribed the names of the 48 states present at the time of the dedication. A little higher is a garland joined by ribbons and palm leaves, supported by wings of eagles. The interior of the Memorial is divided into three chambers by two rows of Ionic columns.

There are four in each row measuring 50 feet tall and 5. 5 feet in diameter. The north and south side chambers contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his Gettysburg Address. Above each of the inscriptions is 60 by 12 foot mural portraying governing principles evident in Lincoln’s life.The south wall mural, Liberty, Immortality, Justice, and the Law are pictured, while the north wall has Unity, Fraternity, and Charity. Between the north and south chambers is the central hall containing the figure of Lincoln sitting, which took four years to complete. It is 19 feet from head to foot.

If Lincoln was standing he would be 28 feet tall. The statue weights 175 tons and had to be shipped in 28 pieces. There is a legend that states the sculpture exhibits the face of General Robert E. Lee in the back of Lincolns’ head.

The profile is hidden in his hair and looks back towards the General’s old home. Another legend is the that the position of his hands are showing his initials, with his left hand shaped to from an A and the right hand to form an L. There have been notable happenings at the memorial. In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow the African American contralto Marian Anderson to perform before an integrated audience at the Constitution Hall, so the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt suggested a performance on the steps on the Memorial on Easter Sunday which drew an audience of 70,000.On August 23, 1963, the memorial was the site of one of the greatest political rallies in history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was a high point of the American Civil Rights Movement.

It is estimated that 250,000 came to the event where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his memorable speech, “I Have a Dream. ” Today, over 3. 6 million people visit the memorial annually. In 2007, the Memorial was ranked seventh in the List of America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects. The Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day 365 days a year and is free to visit.

Author: Megan Lowe


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