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 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.
Design and construction
The Lincoln Monument Association was incorporated by the United States Congress in March 1867 to build a memorial to Lincoln. A site was not chosen until 1902, in an area that was at that time a swampland. Congress formally authorized the memorial on February 9, 1911, and the first stone was put into place on Lincoln's birthday, February 12, 1914. The monument was dedicated by former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft on May 30, 1922, a ceremony attended by Lincoln's only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln. The stone for the building is Indiana limestone and Yule marble, quarried at the town of Marble, Colorado. The Lincoln sculpture within is made of Murphy Marble, quarried near Tate, Georgia. In 1923, designer Henry Bacon received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, his profession's highest honor, for the design of the memorial. Originally under the care of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks, it was transferred to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933.
Standing apart from the somewhat triumphal and Roman manner of most of Washington, the memorial takes the severe form of a Greek Doric temple. It is "peripteral," with 36 massive columns, each 37 feet (10 m) high, surrounding the cella of the building itself, which rises above the porticos. As an afterthought, the 36 columns required for the design were interpreted as representing the 25 U.S. states at the time of Lincoln's death, as well as the 11 seceded Confederate states, and their names were inscribed in the entablature above each column in the order that each state had joined the Union (along with the year of their joining in Roman numerals). The names of the remaining 22 states that had joined the Union when the memorial was completed are carved on the exterior attic walls in the same manner. A plaque in front of the monument commemorates the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.
(1920), French's sculpture inside the Lincoln Memorial]]
carved into the south wall of the interior]] The Lincoln Memorial departed from its general model, the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, in its wide proportions, the entrance being centered on a long side, and in having a flat roof to the cella. At its entrance two columns carry the entablature across the opening. The focus of the memorial is Daniel Chester French's sculpture of Lincoln, seated on a throne. French studied many of Mathew Brady's photographs of Lincoln and depicted the president as worn and pensive, gazing eastwards down the Reflecting Pool toward the capital's starkest emblem of the Union, the Washington Monument. Beneath his hands, the Roman fasces, symbols of the authority of the Republic, are sculpted in relief on the seat. The statue stands 19 feet 9 inches (6 m) tall and 19 feet (6 m) wide, and was carved from 28 blocks of white Georgia marble by the Piccirilli Brothers studio of Bronx, New York.
In two flanking spaces, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the south wall, and on the facing wall Lincoln's second inaugural address. Above the texts are canvas murals by Jules Guerin that depict an angel (representing truth), the freeing of a slave (on the south wall, above the Gettysburg Address) and the unity of the American North and South (above the Second Inaugural Address). On the wall behind the statue, and over Lincoln's head is this dedication, composed by Royal Cortissoz:
IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER
Events at the memorial
In 1937, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow the African-American contralto Marian Anderson to perform before an integrated audience at the organization's Constitution Hall. At the suggestion of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, arranged for a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of that year, to a live audience of 70,000, and a nationwide radio audience.
On August 28, 1963, the memorial grounds were the site of one of the greatest political rallies in history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which proved to be a high point of the American Civil Rights Movement. It is estimated that approximately 250,000 people came to the event, where they heard Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver his memorable speech, "I Have a Dream," before the memorial honoring the president who had issued the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years earlier. The D.C. police also appreciated the location because it was surrounded on three sides by water, so that any incident could be easily contained. On August 28, 1983, crowds gathered again to mark the 20th Anniversary Mobilization for Jobs, Peace and Freedom, to reflect on progress in gaining civil rights for African Americans and to commit to correcting continuing injustices. The "I Have a Dream" speech is such a part of the Lincoln Memorial story, that the spot on which King stood, on the landing eighteen steps below Lincoln's statue, was engraved in 2003 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the event.
On May 9, 1970, President Richard Nixon had a middle-of-the-night impromptu, brief meeting with protesters preparing to march against the Vietnam War just days after the Kent State shootings. For President Bush's 2001 inauguration celebration, the Rockettes dance troupe kicked their legs in the air while marching down the monument's steps. On November 27, 2006, the memorial was partially closed when a suspicious liquid was found in a bathroom. Also found was an anthrax threat letter, according to authorities.
Today, over 3.6 million people visit the memorial annually, and many schools come on field trips to the memorial.
Depictions on U.S. currency
From 1959 to 2008, the Lincoln Memorial was shown on the reverse of the United States one cent coin, which bears Lincoln's portrait bust on the front. The statue of Lincoln can be seen in the monument. This was done to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
The memorial also appears on the back of the U.S. five dollar bill, the front of which bears Lincoln's portrait.
- Emancipation Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial Tower, London, England