Anniversary: Lincoln Memorial dedicated in 1922

Photo in public domainWEDNESDAY, MAY 30: America pays tribute to one of its most honest presidents today—on the 90th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial dedication. In what took almost 8 years to complete, the monument has hosted a slew of infamous events—including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. (Check out photos of the monument’s construction here.)

According to architects, the Lincoln Memorial is “suffering from overuse,” although there’s no need to worry: a major renovation has been planned, which includes a $700 million collection of projects that will transform America’s National Mall into spectacular gardens.

The Lincoln Memorial, designed by Henry Bacon to mimic the temples of ancient Greece, currently stands at the west end of the National Mall. Thirty-eight columns flank the structure, symbolizing the 36 states that were in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death and an extra two columns at the entrance. (Wikipedia has details.) Inside the mammoth structure sits a 19-foot-high statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. On May 30, 1922, after more than 7 years of construction, President Warren Harding received the monument on behalf of the American people; Lincoln’s only living son attended the ceremonies. (Learn more from the National Park Service.)


What accompanies Lincoln’s immortal figure inside the structure has recently been of special interest to religious experts: the north and south side chambers host inscriptions of his Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. What’s so religious about these speeches? A newly resurfaced letter from the 19th century provides additional evidence in the long-running debate over whether Lincoln ever embraced religion on a personal level. (Read the whole story at Discovery News.) As a young adult, Lincoln doubted the soul’s immortality. Once faced with the challenges of his midlife, however—the death of his 11-year-old son, presidency, the Civil War—it’s clear that Lincoln began what most would describe as a deeply spiritual journey. While his first inaugural address contained no religious references, his second contained four biblical references and mentioned “God” 14 times. In a letter found posthumously, Lincoln had pondered God on a very real level in “Meditation on the Divine Will.”


The 6 million annual visitors to the Lincoln Memorial will soon see much more than a statue and inscriptions at this site: the National Mall is set to receive a $700 million renovation, as announced by the Trust for the National Mall a few weeks ago. (USAToday has the story.) The renovated space will boast gardens from the U.S. Botanical Garden; a tree-lined amphitheater; a more ecologically sustainable reflection pool; areas for reading and picnicking; an indoor pavilion with a restaurant and terrace; and a skating rink that will, in the summer, “transform” into a pond for which visitors can rent toy boats to sail.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email