Landmark of the Month (March): The Lincoln Memorial

There are literally hundreds of monuments and memorials in Washington, DC. Some of them are very well known, such as the Washington Monument, and others are fairly obscure, such as the Titanic Memorial. I wanted to start this series of monthly spotlights with what I think is one of the most significant structures in all of Washington--the Lincoln Memorial.

The National Mall is the centerpiece of downtown DC. Anchored on one end by the massive buildings of the US Capitol, the Mall stretches two miles to the significant anchor on the other end: the square, dominating presence of the Lincoln Memorial.

General info about the Lincoln Memorial: Obviously, it is a Memorial to the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, who was President from March 4, 1861 until his assassination on April 14, 1864. The site was chosen in 1901, but the building wasn't started until 1914 (groundbreaking occurred on Lincoln's birthday, February 12th!). It was dedicated in 1992, and attended by Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe's only surviving child.

While the building is built out of Indiana limestone and Colorado marble, the large statue of Lincoln (19'9" tall and 19 feet wide) was carved from 28 blocks of white Georgia marble by Daniel Chester French, a deaf American sculptor. It has 36 massive columns (each 37 feet high)--one each for the 36 states in the Union at the time of his death. The names of the 48 states of the Union when the Memorial was completed are carved on the exterior attic walls.

The statue of Lincoln dominates the main hall, with the inscription, "IN THIS TEMPLE, AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION, THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER" carved into the wall above his head.

The southern cella (a Latin architectural term for a small chamber) wall is carved with his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863), while the northern cella wall features his second Inaugural Address (March 4,1865). He closes that speech with the famous lines, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

Interesting enough, the last phrase (starting with "to care for him") was later adopted as the Mission Statement for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Coming soon: historic events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memoria

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