Monday 22 July 2013

The Lincoln Memorial

“In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

Lincoln's statue, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, courtesy

It is the site of a great orator's statue, President Abraham Lincoln.  It is also the site of a great orator's speech, "I Have a Dream", by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It is the site of 6 million visitors each year.

View from steps of Lincoln Memorial, I Have a Dream Speech, courtesy

On May 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated.  Presiding over the events was President Warren G. Harding.  He stood between the 36 Doric columns, one for each state of the Union back in 1865, and delivered his speech.  Known for his speaking ability, he commented on how Lincoln:  "rose to colossal statue in a day of imperiled union". 

Dedication of Lincoln Memorial courtesy

A special guest was in the audience, Robert Todd Lincoln, the slain President's only surviving son.  He received a standing ovation when he reached his seat.  During the eight year construction of his father's memorial, Robert would often request that his driver take him past Potomac Park to view the building's progress.  Now he was able to view the fruits of that labour.  

Nothing was left to chance in Henry Bacon's design of the memorial.  Guests at the dedication could look up to the "attic" of the building where there were inscribed 48 names, one for each of the 48 states in the Union in 1922.   

Friezes courtesy

If guests were to climb its 58 steps and look inside, they would have seen Lincoln's 19-foot form sitting in a chair, dressed in his office suit and bow tie, gazing out over the Reflecting Pool.  On its interior walls, they would have seen the text of two famous speeches:  Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address.

Excerpt from the Gettsburg Address courtesy

After the ceremony, the crowd would have slowly dispersed as they made their way back down the 58 steps, treated to a beautiful view of the Washington Monument.  It is an magnificent memorial to a magnificent man.

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