When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the public immediately called for a memorial to honor the man that preserved the Union. First, there was a statue put up in 1868 in front of city hall, but that was just not enough. In order to properly honor the man who did more than just preserve the United States, but pitted brother against brother in order to ensure that the words that our founding fathers wrote were true for all, he would need a fitting memorial on the National Mall. It would take 45 years for the bills to make their way through Congress to authorize the building of the memorial we know today. Construction of Henry Bacon’s design began in 1912 and took ten years to complete. Finally, on May 30, 1922, 57 years after his death, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated.
The Lincoln Memorial is located on the western end of the National Mall, on the opposite end the Reflecting Pool from the Washington Monument. The memorial features a statue of Lincoln seated in a Greek temple. The temple has 32 columns to represent the number of states in the Union when Lincoln was president. The statue, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, is 19 feet tall and rests on a marble pedestal ten feet tall. Lincoln is flanked on either side by inscriptions of two of his most famous speeches: on his left, “The Second Inaugural Address,” and on his right, “The Gettysburg Address.” This place is special not just to those who have been oppressed and worked to overcome that oppression, but to all Americans. As you read these words, it is hard to get goosebumps. These words are eternal and America at its best, even though the attendees of the dedication ceremony were segregated.
Walk down the steps and look for the place where Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, then walk southeast to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.
Be sure to see the Lincoln Memorial during the day and lit up at night.
If you only see one thing in Washington, DC, see this.