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Lincoln Memorial

From Academic Kids

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The Lincoln Memorial, built 1915 - 1922

The Lincoln Memorial, on the extended axis of the National Mall in Washington, DC, is a memorial to United States President Abraham Lincoln.

The first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was put into place on Lincoln's birthday, February 12, 1915 and the monument was dedicated on May 30, 1922 attended by the former President's only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln. It won for its architect, the prominent Beaux-Arts designer Henry Bacon, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, his profession's highest honor, presented at the Monument in 1923. The stone for the building is Indiana limestone and Colorado marble, quarried at the town of Marble, Colorado. The sculpture itself is made of Georgia marble.

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 10 meters (33 feet) high, entirely surrounding the cella of the building itself, which rises above the porticos. By a happy afterthought, the 36 columns required for the design were seen to represent the 36 states of the Union at the time of Lincoln's death, and their names were inscribed in the entablature above each column. Five adults holding hands cannot quite embrace the columns.

The Daniel Chester French sculpture inside the Lincoln Memorial
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The Daniel Chester French sculpture inside the Lincoln Memorial

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 at the capital's starkest emblem of the Union, the Washington Monument. One hand is clenched, the other open. Beneath his hands, the Roman fasces, symbols of the authority of the Republic, are sculpted in relief on the seat. It is said that French carved Lincoln's hands to sign the letters "A" and "L" in American Sign Language. Also, on the back of Lincoln's head is supposed to be the faint outline of the face of his enemy during the war: Robert E. Lee.

The central cella is flanked by two others. In one, Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the south wall of the memorial, and in the other, Lincoln's second inaugural address is inscribed on the north wall. A series of murals by Jules Guerin show an angel, representing truth, freeing a slave (on the north 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, visible over the statue's head, is this dedication:

IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER

Like the other monuments on the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is administered by the National Park Service. It is open to the public from 8 a.m. until midnight, except December 25.

In 1939, the singer Marian Anderson was refused permission to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington because of her skin color. Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for Anderson to perform from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, to a live audience of 70,000, and a nationwide radio audience. (It was a very successful performance)

On August 28, 1963, the monument 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. In front of the building, numerous speeches were given, including Martin Luther King's greatest, "I Have a Dream".

The Lincoln Memorial is shown on the reverse of the United States penny. In his treatise Theory and Practise of Numismatic Design, Steve Crooks states that because the Lincoln Memorial is shown in sufficient detail to discern the statue of Lincoln on the reverse of the penny, Abraham Lincoln is the only person to be depicted on both the obverse and reverse of the same United States coin.

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The Lincoln Memorial is on the back of the U.S. $5 bill, which bears Lincoln's portrait on the front.

Later nearby Memorials include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just to the northeast, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial just to the southeast, as well as the National World War II Memorial which now lies at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, right in the path of Lincoln's gaze towards the Washington Monument.

The site has had its share of unusual events; President Bush's 2001 inauguration ceremony included dance troop The Rockettes kicking their legs in the air, while marching down the monument's steps.

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