Like the nearby Washington Monument, or the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Eiffel Tower, or even our beloved Table Mountain, the incredibly special Lincoln Memorial is one of those iconic landmark pieces that filmmakers are able to (and often do) use so that you immediately know just exactly where in the world this story is currently taking place. As such, the opportunity to experience such an incredibly important American landmark in person was enough to make me giddy with excitement!
Of course, the Lincoln Memorial is a lot more important to the fabric of American society than just a landmark. The memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th and perhaps greatest of US presidents, a statesman and lawyer that before his assassination in 1865 managed to lead the nation through the American Civil War, earmarked as one of the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crises, and in doing so, succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy. In short, the memorial serves to symbolize his belief in the freedom and dignity of all people, and as such has featured prominently in almost all campaigns for equality (especially in terms of race relations) across the broad spectrum of people that call themselves American.
The architect commissioned for the job was Henry Bacon, who went on to draw inspiration from the great neoclassical temples, with the end result being this incredibly beautiful and stoic Greek Doric temple which contains an exquisite and large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers) flanked by excerpts from both his second inaugural address and his Gettysburg address. Clad in Yule marble quarried from Colorado, the structure is surrounded by 36 fluted columns, above which are inscribed the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.
Shuffled off to the side is a TINY little gift shop, while below the structure is a small underground museum, which delivers some history about Lincoln as well as the memorial itself, expanding on in particular its role as a race relations center. Stretching out in front of the memorial, all the way through to the World War II memorial, is the Lincoln Reflecting Pool, a massive canal of still water that completes the design and turns the whole affair into this really special space of self-reflection that has a certain air of tranquility about it – despite the overwhelming hordes of tourists that make the pilgrimage to see this very important piece of American history!