As he is still most often named as the greatest American president, it’s no surprise there are lots of places to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln. Everywhere that can claim an association with the 16th President likes to advertise the fact and open their “place” to admirers and tourists. And, you aren’t limited to Washington – the places to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln are all around the country.
I know it would probably seem logical to start in the capital or Lincoln’s birthplace but please indulge me. As a Brit, what resonates to me as being one of the most resonant and significant places to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln is the site of one of the greatest speeches not only in American history but in global history. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. It only had 272 words and lasted 3 minutes but it is one of the most quoted speeches of all time. In case you need reminding, read the transcript here: britannica.com. Today, visitors can appreciate the peace and tranquility of the Gettysburg cemetery and Civil War memorial.
Now it’s on to the great man’s birthplace. Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln embodied the American dream. His family was poor but he self-educated to qualify as a lawyer in Illinois before he took the path he was born to follow – to lead the nation. Hodgenville is still a pretty remote town but it plays host to the Lincoln birthplace shrine – a marble temple built around a log cabin, although it is generally accepted the cabin is not the original Lincoln family home. Also in town are a bronze Lincoln statue and the Lincoln Museum.
You might be surprised at the inclusion of a West Coast location because it’s not exactly a place where you can follow in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps. He never actually visited California but it is reported he expressed a wish to do so in a conversation with his wife. Apparently he was taken with the idea of gold, adventure and the railroad. In honor of this, there is a Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands. Built in 1932, it is a curated exhibition of the life and legacy of the President.
If we’re talking memorials, we can’t possibly ignore the one that graces the nation’s capital. Sitting on the National Mall opposite the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial is a magnificent Doric-style temple with a large statue of Lincoln in a seated position. That’s all I need to say really, because you have to visit it to understand its power and magnetism, even today.
He may have been a Kentuckian by birth, but Illinois was an important state for Lincoln. It was where he studied and qualified as a lawyer and he was nominated for President in Chicago. It’s right, therefore, that the Chicago History Museum can boast some of the great Abraham Lincoln treasures and artifacts, including the bed he died in. While in Illinois, you might want to pop along to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Other Lincoln sites in Springfield include his house, his tomb and the location of his “House Divided” speech – the state Capitol.
Naturally, the country’s greatest tourist city is going to be among the places to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln. It is actually only one site but it is of great significance. Pay a visit to the Copper Union College in Manhattan, one of the USA’s oldest educational institutions, and in the Great Hall you will be able to see the iron lectern from where Lincoln made his speech that became known as the “Copper Union Address.” This speech is recognized as being what galvanized his support and won him the presidency.
We have to finish up with the place where the magnificent story comes to a terrible and tragic end. It was on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth assassinated the President of the United States while he was watching a performance at the Ford’s Theater. Today the beautifully-preserved theater is still a performance venue but it is also a museum dedicated to that fateful night. Here, and the bedroom across the street where he died, is described as the “place where American history changed.”
I may be a Brit but I recognize just how important the man in the stovepipe hat was to the USA. Would you follow in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps to pay homage to a great president?