Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial


Henry Bacon, FAIA


Washington, DC








  angle view, photo D. Brownlee (U. Penn. slide coll.).
  facade, photo D. Brownlee (U. Penn. slide coll.).
  distant view, photo D. Brownlee (U. Penn. slide coll.).
  head of Lincoln, photo, J. Cohen and peristyle detail, looking west, photo D. Brownlee (U. Penn. slide coll.).
  interior, photo, J. Cohen.

The Lincoln Memorial, which is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a United States Presidential Memorial built to honor 16th President Abraham Lincoln. The architect was Henry Bacon, the sculptor was Daniel Chester French, and the painter of the interior murals was Jules Guerin.

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 the other monuments on the National Mall, including the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and National World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. The National Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It is open to the public 24 hours a day.

Design and construction

Aerial view of the Lincoln Memorial.

Program from AIA Gold Medal Award honoring architect Henry Bacon, 1923The 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 1901, in an area that was then 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 President Warren G. Harding 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 Georgian marble. 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, entirely surrounding the cella of the building itself, which rises above the porticos. As an afterthought, the 36 columns required for the design were seen to represent the 36 U.S. states at the time of Lincoln's death, and their names were inscribed in the entablature above each column. The names of the 48 states of the Union when the memorial was completed are carved on the exterior attic walls, and a later plaque commemorates the admission of Alaska and Hawaii.


Daniel Chester French sculpture inside the Lincoln Memorial

The memorial and the reflecting pool.The main influence on the style of the Lincoln Memorial was the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece. The focus of the memorial is Daniel Chester French's sculpture of Lincoln, seated. 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 wide, and was carved from 28 blocks of white Georgia marble.

The central cella is flanked by two others. In one, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the south wall, and in the other, Lincoln's second inaugural address is inscribed on the north wall. In the first column of the latter text, the word "Future" is misspelled, reading "Euture." Above the texts are a series of 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). There is also a small book shop to the right of the entrance. On the wall behind the statue, visible over the statue's head, is this dedication:



Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963.

In 1939, singer Marian Anderson was refused permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington because of her skin color. At the suggestion of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, arranged for Anderson to perform from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 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 American 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. D.C. police also appreciated the location because it was surrounded on three sides by water, so that any incident could be easily contained. [1] A marked tile on the memorial's steps shows where Dr. King stood.

The site has had its share of unusual events. On May 9, 1970, President Richard Nixon made a remarkable middle-of-the-night impromptu visit during a time of protests against the Vietnam War. 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.

Urban legends
There are a number of urban legends associated with the memorial. Some have claimed that Robert E. Lee's face is carved onto the back of Lincoln's statue. Another popular legend is that Lincoln is shown using sign language to represent his initials. The National Park Service denies both of these.[2]

The Lincoln Memorial on U.S. currency

Lincoln Memorial on reverse of U.S. one cent coin

The Lincoln Memorial on a $5 bill.

The Lincoln Memorial is shown on the reverse of the United States one cent coin, which bears Lincoln's portrait on the front. The memorial also appears on the back of the U.S. five dollar bill, the front of which which carries Lincoln's portrait.

External links

The Lincoln Memorial in twilight.
South wall interiorOfficial NPS website: Lincoln Memorial
Maps and aerial photos for 38°53'21?N 77°03'01?W? / ?38.88923, -77.05033Coordinates: 38°53'21?N 77°03'01?W? / ?38.88923, -77.05033
Maps from WikiMapia, Google Maps, Live Search Maps, Yahoo! Maps, or MapQuest
Topographic maps from TopoZone or TerraServer-USA

^ Jennings, Peter; Brewster, Todd. The Century. Doubleday, 1998
^ National Park Service Lincoln Memorial FAQ Accessed June 11, 2007
[hide]v • d • eLandmarks of Washington, D.C.
Adams Memorial (grave marker) · African American Civil War Memorial · Albert Einstein Memorial · District of Columbia War Memorial · Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial · George Mason Memorial · James A. Garfield Monument · Jefferson Memorial · Jefferson Pier · John Ericsson National Memorial · John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts · Korean War Veterans Memorial · Lincoln Memorial · Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac · National Japanese American Memorial To Patriotism During World War II · National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial · National World War II Memorial · Navy-Marine Memorial · Oscar Straus Memorial · Outdoor sculpture in Washington, D.C. · Peace Monument · President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument · Robert A. Taft Memorial · The Extra Mile · The Three Soldiers · Theodore Roosevelt Island · Ulysses S. Grant Memorial · United States Navy Memorial · Victims of Communism Memorial · Vietnam Veterans Memorial · Vietnam Women's Memorial · Washington Monument · Women's Titanic Memorial · Zero Milestone