Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

Part of National Mall and Memorial Parks
Washington, D.C.
Visited: July 14, 2006
NPS Site Visited: 308 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Lincoln Memorial Full Frontal

The instantly recognizable white Georgia marble neo-Classical monument dedicated to our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

BEAUTY (8/10)
At the National Mall western end, the Lincoln Memorial stands, a steadfast Greek Temple that emanates greatness and elicits reflexive, earnest tribute. The ascent up its three flights of stairs builds the anticipation, heightens the spirit and takes you to the most fitting tribute any American president has yet to achieve.

Inside Abraham Lincoln sits. His position recalls an imagined recreation of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Lincoln’s recreation is no less godlike, but instead of the bombast and tyranny of his mythical counterpart, he sits with the wisdom of Athena. Lincoln’s famed melancholy is no more; he sits with self-assuredness. His gaze is more complicated; it speaks of hope and pride but also shows wariness and fear.

Despite its grand scale and lofty symbolism, the Lincoln Memorial is not triumphalist. It shows a man with flaws and sensitivities. It speaks to a hopeful future accompanied by thought and a humble character. It speaks to what America should be.

Penny for Your ThoughtsHISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10)
The Lincoln Memorial has seen historic significance rare to most memorials and monuments. Since soon after its dedication, the Memorial has played host to countless concerts, political demonstrations and speeches. Perhaps the only speech to rival the legend of Lincoln’s own Gettysburg Address occurred here: Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On that August 28, 1963 day, the Lincoln Memorial grounds served as the centerpiece for the one of the most important (and among the largest) political rallies ever to occur, the 1963 March on Washington.

CROWDS (9/10)
There were a lot of people here! The mass of humanity that was milling about, ascending and descending the stairs and waiting patiently to be photographed next to Lincoln’s knees were all in celebratory, dare we say, jubilant moods despite the heat of the day. This classic American landmark’s grand size can handle all comers with ease.

The easiest way to visit is via the Tourmobile® Sightseeing buses. Your $20.00 per adult all day ticket drops you off in front of the both the Lincoln Memorial, the nearby Vietnam Veterans and Korean Memorials and every other National Mall-area attraction.

The Lincoln Memorial is located on the western edge of the National Mall, just south of a dense conglomeration of federal offices. The more adventurous (or masochistic) tourist could find a metered street parking space among this mess of barricaded one-ways streets, diplomat-only meters and tricky diagonal intersections but we do not recommended it.

The nearest D.C. Metro stop is Foggy-Bottom-GWU, located three-quarters of a mile to the north at the intersection of 23rd and I Streets. This downhill concrete walk always seems longer than the distance indicates.

The President’s KneeCONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5)
Oddly inadequate. The Lincoln Memorial bookstore is tucked away in the inner right corner of the Memorial’s mezzanine. It is far too small to handle its crowd, especially when a baby stroller is pushed into the mix. Shelf space is divvied up between the Lincoln Memorial and other nearby bookstore-less sites, including the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Memorials. A few books on civil rights and more recent military involvements are scattered in there for good measure.

We could find no rhyme or reason for the bookstore offerings or why some titles were chosen over others. We couldn’t even find a cool magnet. Those looking for substantial information on our 16th president will do much better at the Ford’s Theater NHS.

COSTS (4/5)
Not a penny to see the front and back of a penny.

The area in and around the Lincoln Memorial’s circular perimeter appeared to be a Ranger-free zone. We saw security guards, bookstore clerks and construction workers doing Memorial restoration but no Rangers. Even the tiny downstairs Lincoln museum appeared to be un-staffed.

Park literature states that there are Park Ranger programs every day at all the National Mall Memorials. Somehow, we missed them all. We understand that the D.C. experience is primarily visceral; it is about being overwhelmed with larger than life statues and legendarily great men.

The Lincoln Memorial needs no elaboration and no educational help. Old Abe sits on his throne and regally looks over the capital city of the country he reunited (and broke apart according to some). His greatest words, the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, flank him on either side, in their full glory and in complete context.

That is why the Lincoln Museum, located beneath the Memorial, is disappointing. The Museum consists mostly of granite-etched Lincoln quotes regarding equality, freedom, emancipation and the Union. These quotes are mangled and taken out of context in a misguided attempt to portray Lincoln as a fiery abolitionist. The museum exhibits reveal more about the curators and their opinions about Lincoln than Lincoln himself.

Side View FUN (10/10)
From his perch, Abe Lincoln enjoys the best and most classic view in Washington, D.C. He overlooks his own reflecting pool, the new World War II Memorial, the soaring obelisk Washington Monument, the National Mall and finally the U.S. Capitol. The vista is stirring at all times and in all seasons. The views and the history will infuse strong patriotic emotions into even the most cynical of Americans. The Lincoln Memorial is a resolute reminder of the positive strength of both humanity and the self.

The Lincoln Memorial is Michael’s favorite place in Washington D.C. Every time he walks up its steps he feels the same rush of expectation and the same flood of emotions. It is a pilgrimage site and a place to give secular thanks and blessings not just to Mr. Lincoln but to Dr. King and the pioneers of the many human rights organizations that have rallied here. The Lincoln Memorial is a quintessential American icon and a must-see destination for all Americans.

TOTAL 60/80


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Springfield, Ill.
Visited: July 13, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 66 of 353
NPS Website

Pick Me a WinnerWHAT IS IT?
The house Abraham Lincoln and his family lived in for 17 years, from 1844 to 1861; the only house Abe ever owned. The Site also includes four blocks of buildings restored to their 1860 appearance.

BEAUTY (5/10)
The tree-lined shady streets are pleasant but not spectacular. Lincoln’s home is large but modest. Other than the brass nameplate on the door, little sets it apart from the other reconstructed homes on the street.

Lincoln and Springfield are intertwined. Abraham Lincoln practiced law here, married here, raised his family here, prepared for the Presidency here. Springfield wept when Lincoln left to take Office, but has grown now as a thriving town because of his residency. In Springfield, it’s all about Lincoln.

FYI, Abraham Lincoln still holds the record for number of cases tried before the Illinois Supreme Court.

CROWDS (2/10)
A lot of people visit Lincoln’s Home in Springfield. House tours are frequent. We went on the 9:50 a.m. tour. There was also a 9:45 and a 10:00. Lincoln’s house was packed. The narrow hallways ballooned with our 20-person tour group. We were unable to squeeze into half of the rooms during the Ranger talk. Even though the Ranger encouraged questions, our enquiries had to be screamed over the crowd’s din and answered while we swiftly moved to the next room. We had to clear the way for the next group. Our visit was severely hindered by the Site’s inability to control its large crowds.

Springfield, Illinois lies in the center of the state at the intersection of Interstates 72 and 55. Signs point you to the “Lincoln Sites”. We were confused because the entire city is a Lincoln site. Nothing pointed us specifically to the Lincoln Home NHS. The streets’ overwhelming tendency to be one-way did not help.

The Lincoln Home had narrow hallways and steep staircases. We were uncomfortable during our entire tour. We were rushed through the rooms and had little time to take in and appreciate our surroundings.

Our tour guide told us that Abraham Lincoln is the most written-about person in American history at nearly 10,000 books. The Site bookstore did not have many of them. The store’s cramped space made browsing difficult among the many visitors.

Just Like Abe KnewCOSTS (3/5)
The Lincoln Home NHS is free; however, the NPS parking lot is $2 per hour. We parked on the street about three feet from the parking lot entrance for $0.50 an hour.

There were four Rangers working themselves ragged giving back-to-back-to-back high-speed tours through the Lincoln Home. We saw them during our entire stay but never without a tour group. The questions that we did not sneak in during our tour were left unanswered.

We entered the Visitor Center and were immediately asked if we wanted to join the next tour of Lincoln’s home. Of course! Our tour was scheduled for 9:50 a.m., just a few minutes away. We were told to go wait by the sign in the middle of the road. We wandered over and saw not one, but two clusters of people – one kind of near a sign, but another sitting in the shade with a Ranger already speaking to them. Were we late? Did the tour start early. Through whispers with a kind woman near the edge of the group, we learned that this was the 9:45 group. She thought the 9:50 might be over in the opposite direction.

One tour at 9:45 and another at 9:50? That should have been our first indication that it would be a busy day.

Our Ranger came rushing over, almost breathless from his previous tour which must have ran late. He didn’t even pause to take a breathe before he asked the group the time and what time our tour was supposed to begin. Looking at his watch and seeing it was 9:50, he wasted no time telling us about Lincoln and his life and career in Springfield. We waited outside to give the 9:45 tour some room, but not much. We crowded into the small foyer and tried our hardest to stay on the carpeted runners that led through the preserved house.

The Park Service has done an admirable job restoring the house and retrieving items belonging to the Lincoln family. We wish we had more time to appreciate its work. Because of size and time constraints, each group was led through the house by Rangers who knew their lines by heart. Not to say our Ranger wasn’t knowledgeable. He was. But he was also very aware of the time of his next tour.

The video in the Visitor Center is a rehash of the Ranger-led tour through Lincoln’s home. We actually saw things closer in the video than we did in the house. However, the costumed guide in the video is currently in first place (by a large margin) for the Worst Acting in a NPS Film for this month.

FUN (4/10)
The heat, the crowds and the confusion weighed down this score. Once we left the small four-block area of the National Historic Site and wandered through the rest of Springfield, our spirits lifted. The Old State Capitol was lovingly restored by the city of Springfield. We talked at length with a historian there who gave us the time and the answers that the Park Ranger was unable. Down the road, we peeked into the windows of the almost-ready Lincoln Presidential Museum where, pamphlets announce, “no expense has been spared.” We felt privileged to get a sneak preview of what will undoubtedly be one of Springfield’s, perhaps Illinois’, primary attractions.

Mr. Lincoln I PresumeWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (7/10)
Michael’s grandfather loved Abraham Lincoln. Our trip to Springfield was a pilgrimage not only to see Lincoln’s home, but to honor his grandfather’s memory and his hero. When his grandparents traveled to the Site over 25 years ago, he knew through their retelling that they felt closer to Lincoln. We did too. Our feelings came primarily from the nearby Old State Capitol and especially Lincoln’s Tomb and sadly, not the National Park Site. Springfield exists as both the Capitol of Illinois and a shrine to our sixteenth president. Our recommendation is for Springfield more so than the Lincoln Home NHS. Next year a massive modern Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will open two blocks from the Old State Capitol. We might have to find our way back to central Illinois.

TOTAL 39/80

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Keystone, S. Dak.
Visited: June 26, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 59 of 353
NPS Website

Mount RushmoreWHAT IS IT?
60+ foot profiles of four American presidents carved onto the southeast side of a granite mountain.

BEAUTY (9/10)
Awe-inspiring. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum has captured the essence of his subjects: George Washington’s strength and determination; Jefferson’s aloofness; Roosevelt’s fighting spirit; and Lincoln’s pensive sadness. The dramatic granite pillars and ponderosa pine of the Black Hills provide a perfect setting. The park’s recent $60 million renovation is a stunning companion piece to an already impressive memorial. The renovation highlights include marble pathways, a boardwalk that leads to the base of the mountain and a gorgeous amphitheater.

In the 1920’s, South Dakota State Historian Doane Robinson had an idea. He wanted western heroes carved onto the sides of various Black Hills spires. His motive: Bring in Tourists. Four years later a process began to create something much grander in scale: the United States’ answer to the Pyramids of Giza, an eternal remnant of our civilization. The sculpture is carved on such strong granite that it will last for thousands of years. It is our message to future generations. These are the people who have created, expanded, preserved and developed our great nation.

CROWDS (7/10)
There were thousands of people at Mount Rushmore when we visited. Our Ranger-led tour included at least 100. We had expected the worst, crowd-wise, but were pleasantly surprised. The Site is impeccably designed with numerous trails, museums and activities. We were never rushed, crowded or denied a view.

Goat-like IntruderEASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
Mount Rushmore N MEM is a bit out of the way, a 50-mile round trip along winding Black Hills roads from Interstate 90. The new renovation has created a completely accessible memorial. The entrance is a short walk from the five-level parking garage. The Site even offers a Braille version of the official Park brochure.

There are three separate bookstores, one of which is the size of a small supermarket, that shelve a plethora of Mount Rushmore souvenirs. An incredible choice of coffee cups, magnets, T-shirts, stuffed animals, shot glasses, Black Hills Gold, Native American trinkets, sweatshirts, patches and much more. The stores were an overwhelming fun mess because their products were so cool. The book selection was quite good except for the surprisingly poor set of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln books.

COSTS (3/5)
Entering the Site itself is free, BUT parking is $8 per vehicle. As the brochure explains, “No federal funding was used for (the parking garage construction) project. Thus, federal passports such as the National Parks Pass, Golden Age, Golden Access and the Golden Eagle are not applicable for parking.” Your $8 parking pass is good for one year.

Even though there are hundreds of people per Ranger at Mount Rushmore, the Park Service has skillfully distributed each Ranger and leaves no guest without a professional information outlet. Guided tours of the memorial as well as talks at the Sculptors Studio start every half hour.

The Ranger-led tour was tremendous. Through the Ranger’s skillful teaching, we gained awe and respect for the carvers, the sculptor and the four presidents. Michael most enjoyed the section of the tour where the group looked at the sculpture and described the character trait evident in each presidents’ visage.

At the tours start, the guide was inevitably asked if Ronald Reagan would be added to the mountain. His response, “Would you paint a smile on the Mona Lisa? Gutzon Borglum wanted no one to touch his masterpiece. For that reason he used up all available rock. So, no.” That’s when we realized that we were looking at art just as epic and brilliant as Da Vinci’s lady.

The Sculptor’s Studio talk was also a great learning experience if only for the setting. The Ranger gives her lesson a few feet in front of Borglum’s scale model. An in-residence working sculptor is also available nearby to answer questions about the artistic process.

Anything You Can Do...The newly remodeled Museum has many wonderful displays and interactive features. We especially enjoyed the Mount Rushmore in Popular Culture video as well as the T-bar dynamite detonator whose compression coincides with a dynamite blast clip.

Don’t watch the film. It was completed in 1985 and discusses nothing not already covered by either the Rangers or the museum.

FUN (8/10)
We came expecting the worst. Large crowds, high security and bad views. Michael had been to Mount Rushmore twice before and was less than impressed. Boy, were we wrong. The renovations have enhanced and dramatized the older views. The new Presidential Trail takes you right underneath the sculpture, a place we never imagined we would be able to go. What fun.

Of course, see it at least once in your lifetime. The Site is first class, a fitting tribute to our Memorial.

TOTAL 68/80

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We woke up at the Fairfield Inn in East Louisville yesterday morning. Our plan was to head south to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site then head back north to Louisville. Maybe even catch a minor league baseball game. Everyone says such nice things about Louisville.

We went downstairs to take advantage of our free continental breakfast. It was 7:00 a.m. After picking up the free copy of Tuesday’s USA Today we entered the breakfast room. Four men in ragged looking business attire sat at the first table. Single businessmen took two others. We sat down and were immediately caught in a barrage of swearing, self-loathing, and hardcore grumpiness. Gab’s eyes told me that we needed to get out of the city immediately. We needed to be outside. We needed to camp.

Our itinerary told us that we would visit Mammoth Cave National Park one year and a half from today. Things change. Southward, ho. We would camp outside, thunderstorm predictions or not. When we imagined our trip, we envisioned fresh air, campgrounds and majestic vistas. So far, it has been two months of cities, hotels and historic sites. I love what we done so far, but a week of Cleveland, Canton, Akron, Toledo, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati does not sell out at the travel agency.

We left Lincoln’s birthplace at 10:15 a.m. and arrived at Mammoth Cave at 10:15 a.m. thanks to an unexpected switch to Central Time. Slowly but surely we are moving westward. We arrived in the Visitor Center and grilled the Park Ranger on which cave tours he would suggest. There are 10 unique guided tours that explore different parts of the cave. We decided on our tours and asked if there were campsites still available. He laughed and said ‘of course, you don’t need to worry about that’ in a soft Kentucky drawl.

After the four and a half hour Grand Avenue Cave Tour finished, we excitedly drove to the campsite to get a space. Let me first admit that Gab and I are camping novices. We have camped only once before in the United States. Gab as a Girl Scout me at a KOA-type campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We both had horrifying experiences. We did a few long distance hikes in South America but we still get a little giddy at the notion of pitching a tent. We want to experience the beauty of America and its nature. If we can do it, anyone can do it.

At the check-in, the Park Ranger suggested a nice camping spot so we followed her advice and took Space #76. A couple taking a walk around the campground just complemented our campsite; thank you Ms. Park Ranger. We are under the protection of many tall White Oak Trees, the same White Oaks used to make the barrels which age Kentucky Bourbon. We are at the outer edge of the campsite. It is very nice. The Park Service provides a parking spot, a grill, a concrete park bench and a large area to pitch the tent. If every Park is like this, we are set. Birds sing, woodpeckers hammer away, wild turkey’s gobble and the wind gently rustles through the trees. Only the intermittent hum of an RV generator spoils the outdoors’ song.

The Campsite is populated mainly with RV’s and towed campers. There are only a few people sleeping in tents. Even though we are going to be gone for two years, we seem to be carrying the least amount of stuff by far. Cars overflow with camping gear, chairs, tables, coolers, and who knows what else. Our tent looks petite next to the behemoths at the other sites. But we are doing quite well and having a spectacular time.

Click Here to Read More about the Park indoor activities.

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