|I visited Mr. Lincoln in 1999.|
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Mr. Lincoln's Memorial
A group of old photos made its way around cyberspace. They were interesting, until I came to one of the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln didn’t have a head! What I had thought was a one-piece marble sculpture is actually several parts put together.
"In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States sits immortalized in marble as an enduring symbol of unity, strength, and wisdom.
Senator James McMillan served as chairman of the Senate District of Columbia Committee. In 1900, Senator James McMillan formed the Senate Park Commission, to recognize the centennial of the arrival of the nation’s capital to what is now Washington, District of Columbia. The commission planned an integrated park system.
The Senate Park Commission Plan, published in 1902, called for a Lincoln Memorial. The proposed Memorial would honor Lincoln with its simplicity, dignity, strength, and beauty in proportion and in classical form.
Architect Henry Bacon modeled the memorial after the Greek Parthenon. A memorial to a man who defended democracy ought to be based on a structure found in the birthplace of democracy, he reasoned. The final design featured thirty-six exterior columns to symbolize the thirty-six reunited states at the time of Lincoln’s death. The names of those states appear in the frieze above the columns.
The interior of the Lincoln Memorial has three chambers. The central chamber contains the statue of the president, while the flanking chambers commemorate Lincoln’s speeches that reflected his character and celebrate his accomplishments during his presidency. These are the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.
Daniel Chester French researched Abraham Lincoln and studied photographs of him. He decided Lincoln’s special qualities were his strength and his compassionate nature. French depicted the president as a weary but strong individual who had endured many hardships. Lincoln’s hands are positioned to display his leading qualities. One hand is clenched, representing his strength and determination to see the war through to a successful conclusion. The other hand is a more open, slightly more relaxed hand representing his compassionate, warm nature.
Construction took place between 1914 and 1922. Work had been mostly completed when the United States entered into the First World War in April 1917. Progress slowed but remained steady.
Different stones were used in the Memorial’s construction. The terrace walls and lower steps comprise granite blocks from Massachusetts; the upper steps, outside façade, and columns contain marble blocks from Colorado; the interior walls and columns are Indiana limestone; the floor is pink Tennessee marble; the ceiling tiles are Alabama marble; and the Lincoln statue contains 28 pieces of Georgia marble, put together like a puzzle, I discovered.
Henry Bacon chose these different building materials to tell a specific story. A country torn apart by war can come together and build something beautiful.
Have you visited Mr. Lincoln?