On this day in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated and opened to the public on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In attendance was the 16th President’s only surviving child, 79 year-old Robert Todd Lincoln.
Begun in 1914, with funds approved by Congress, the Beaux-Arts, Greek Doric Temple was designed by architect Henry Bacon and took six years to build. The exterior, built of Colorado marble, is surrounded by 36 fluted columns representing the 36 states of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. The columns (as well as the exterior walls) slope inward ever so slightly—to avoid the optical illusion of the building “bulging” at the top.
The interiors were painted by Jules Guerin and the imposing, seated sculpture of President Lincoln was designed by Daniel Chester French. Originally, the sculpture was commissioned to stand 10 feet high. When the size and scale of the monument’s interior began to take form, however, it was realized that a larger sculpture was needed to fill the enormous space. The sculptor was asked to revise his design—in mid-stream—to 19 feet high!
Some felt that the grand, classical design was too palatial, too pretentious to suit a modest man like Abraham Lincoln. But others believed that the design conveyed the historical importance of the man being honored. The monument also had pride of place along the Capitol Building – Washington Monument Axis.
The monument—and the long reflecting pool which stretches-out before it—has been the site of many important speeches and gatherings, most notably Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
The bookends above, were made within the decade (or so) following the Memorial's opening. Click on the photo to learn more about them.
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