The History of the Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial stands at the West End of the National Mall in Washington DC as a testament to the nation’s 16th President. This huge structure brings in elements of Greek design and handcrafted sculpting to build a memorial fit for the man himself.
This structure was first designed back in the late 1800s, when Congress decided to up the ante of the existing statue due to popular demand. This original statue was erected in 1868, three years after the assassination of the president. Many believed that this statue was not fitting for the President and demanded that Congress create a more fitting memorial to commemorate the President.
Congress complied with this request and began to enlist those to design and build the memorial. At this point, a fierce debate raged on as some parties believed that Lincoln would have preferred a modest log cabin memorial. The original design was chosen, but the project ran out of steam soon after. However, as the charitable subscriptions needed to build, the statue did not reach the necessary amount. At the turn of the 1900s, Congress was challenged again to create another monument. After five failed bills to restart the project, the sixth finally passed in 1910.
The next step in the process was for the Lincoln Memorial Commission, led by President Taft, to decide upon a site and design for the project. Each of these came with their own debates surrounding them; and where to place the statue was a particularly contentious issue.
After the plans were approved, and although they changed throughout time, the building was finally underway. The statue of Lincoln was originally intended to be 10 feet tall, but was nearly doubled in size to 19 feet, after designers expressed concerns that the statue may look small compared to the huge housing that surrounding it.
There are many details of the statue that encompass several design features and stand for a multitude of details about Lincoln’s life. Each of the names of the states within the Union at the time of his assassination are inscribed on the top of the housing.
There are two myths surrounding the statue and its form, one being that visitors believe that Robert E Lee’s face is etched on the back of Lincoln’s head. This would face back to his home of Arlington House, which many believe would give this legend credence. The other myth surrounding the statue is the placement of Lincoln’s hands. Some believe that he is signing his initials in American Sign Language. The statue’s hands are placed in the motions for A and L but it will never be clear if this was intentional by the designer.
If you want to check these urban legends out for yourself, join Gray Line DC for our DC in a Day tour, where you can see this monument among others. Attendees on this tour will see the White House from the outside, WWII Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial and much more in just a day.