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Lincoln Birthplace Memorial
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Monuments & Parks Lincoln Birthplace Memorial

Lincoln Birthplace Memorial

The Two Lincoln Memorials and Stony Creek Pink Granite

Every eighth grader at Woodbury Middle School in Woodbury, Connecticut looks forward to a certain weekend in May.  That weekend for every eighth grader about to “graduate” from middle school and transition to high school is the last glorious moment to be together as middle-schoolers.  This trip is planned starting the spring of seventh grade; who to room with in the hotel and what to bring for the snacks on the 8 hour bus ride.  The weekend trip to Washington, D.C. for WMS eighth graders seems like the most important trip in life.  Not only is the bus ride with friends a blast, but the shopping and sightseeing aren’t too bad either.  Washington, D.C houses the Washington Memorial, The Holocaust Museum, and one of the favorites, The Lincoln Memorial. 

When “The Lincoln Memorial” is entered into Google, many websites says that the Lincoln Memorial is made out of Stony Creek pink granite.  But what many fail to realize is that there are more than one Lincoln Memorial.  The lesser-known Lincoln Memorial, and the one that also contains the Stony Creek pink granite, is the Lincoln Memorial in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

The United States is home to four national historic sites dedicated to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.  The one that makes the people of Kentucky proudest is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky.  The Lincoln Birthplace Memorial is built on the knoll above the sinking spring where many believe the Lincoln cabin originally stood.  Today people come from all over the world to see the grand memorial built to honor his birth. Inside the memorial, visitors can see a log cabin similar to the one where Abraham Lincoln was born and spent his earliest years.  This project began in 1906 when the Lincoln Farm Association began a fund raising campaign for the project, in which over 100,000 Americans donated nearly $350,000.  The Norcross Brothers Construction Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, the nation's first general contractor and one of the most important construction companies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, won the contract for constructing the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Building in 1907. Construction began on February 12, 1909, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, with the laying of the cornerstone and speech by President Theodore Roosevelt.  A promising young architect by the name of John Russell Pope was chosen by the Lincoln Farm Association to design the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial.  Pope immediately began brainstorming and drawing up blueprints, and his promising talent did not fail him in the extravagant and elegant first design he drew up.  But, unfortunately, as Pope's plan was introduced in February 1908, the Lincoln Farm Association had collected only $100,000 of the estimated $250,000 needed to complete the Memorial Building.  More funds tried to be established by Congress, but it was no use.  Between February and October 1908, less than one year before the centennial of Lincoln's birth and the projected dedication of the memorial, the Lincoln Farm Association decided to modify the design because of its limited financial resources.

In October 1908, Pope produced a set of eleven drawings that depicted the finished product as the Memorial Building.  The memorial would no longer be a memorial museum and landscape, but a more modest memorial building to enshrine the birth cabin with a landscaped approach.  Pope placed the Memorial Building on this natural height of the knoll and used its incline for a dramatic stairway approach.  Four sets of Stony Creek granite stairs ascend the terraced hill, nearly thirty-seven feet wide at the base, the stairs narrow to thirty feet at the summit.  The open area at the foot of the stairs provided the visitor a dramatic perspective of the Memorial Building high in the distance, a goal to be reached by gradual ascent and allowed for a very powerful and meaningful setting. 

As John Russell Pope was seen as a very promising architect, he still acquired ideas from other architects, as future architects came up with designs similar to Pope’s.  Pope’s first blueprints of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial had many stems of similarities to other’s designs.  Historians believe the main facade in Pope's preliminary memorial building design is based on McKim's 1907 Morgan Library in New York, which has a similar three-part organization.  Pope’s designs looked very familiar to the design of the present Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  And it is even speculated that the Lincoln farm may have been inspired by the 1902 McMillan Commission Plan to re-establish Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original plan of the nation's capital, specifically, the portion of the Mall that included the Washington Monument, the reflecting pool, and the Lincoln Memorial.  Pope was also influenced by none other than Stanford White, the famous architect known for the design of the first Madison Square Garden.  Pope may have been influenced by a series of monumental columns designed by Stanford White, including the Detroit Bicentennial Column of 1899. White adapted this design for the 143-foot Prison Ship Martyr's Monument in Greene Park, Brooklyn, New York, of 1904-1909. Pope placed the Memorial Building and column at opposite ends of a long, rectangular grass plaza.  Therefore, the bird’s eye view of the design looked very familiar to the National Mall set up of the Washington Memorial, reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial.  But Pope was not the only one who required inspiration from others’ works.  The formal landscape Pope conceived for the Memorial Building was very similar to the McKinley National Memorial, which included the Milford pink granite in the interior and exterior domes.   Designed by New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle, the McKinley Memorial was dedicated in September 1907; four months after Pope began work on plans for the Lincoln farm. The pink granite mausoleum is circular, and more significantly, the building is set on a terraced knoll ascended by four sets of broad marble stairs with wide abutments. There also sit long rows of trees that line both sides of the approach as in Pope’s design, originally a reflecting pool that was drained by 1930.  The entire arrangement recalls Pope's landscape treatment for the Lincoln Memorial Building.

In addition, scratching a plan for a formal museum, Pope's revised plan called for one large viewing room that left enough space for the cabin and interior pedestrian space to surround it.  The Memorial Building measures fifty by thirty five feet and encloses a single chamber. Constructed of Connecticut pink Stony Creek granite and reinforced concrete, the building is set on a low terrace.  And the birth cabin is located behind bronze stanchions in the center of the Memorial Building.  Pope's design of the building included many symbolisms related to Abraham Lincoln, including fifty-six steps leading up to the building to represent the fifty-six years of Lincoln's life. Sixteen windows in the building and sixteen rosettes on the interior ceiling are there to remind visitors that Lincoln was the sixteenth president. And the Beaux-Arts building was designed specifically to house the "symbolic" birth cabin of Abraham Lincoln.  Over the entrance is carved "With Malice Toward None with Charity for All," and on the rear inside wall are inscribed the life stories of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks.  Finally, when the cabin was restored and placed within the walls of the Memorial Building, its size was reduced slightly. It is now 12 feet wide and 17 feet long and its walls are 11 logs high. The spaces between the logs are chinked with clay, and a clay-lined log chimney stands at one end. A small window gives the only light, and the doorway is so low that a man of average height must stoop when he is entering.  The building is set on a terrace of Stony Creek pink granite, which also is used in the monument introducing the memorial when people first drive in

Finally, on November 9, 1911, three thousand people gathered at the foot of the Memorial Building for the dedication of the " target="_blank mce_href=">Lincoln Birthplace Memorial.  President William Howard Taft, a member of the LFA Board of Trustees, delivered an address, but what was to be the "Nation's Commons, the meeting-place of North, South, East and West," was rapidly eclipsed by plans to erect a Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C. Congress approved funds for the Lincoln Memorial on February 9, 1911, and the nation's attention quickly turned to this latest addition to the Mall.  Articles appeared and little mention was made of the completion of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial.  Yet today the site is still popular among the tourists.  Also among the exhibit is the Lincoln family Bible with the signature of his father and mark of his mother. Many visitors stay to see a brief orientation film about Lincoln's early life in Kentucky as well.        

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., a monument known to represent and honor our 16th President, stands 190 feet long, 119 feet wide, and almost 100 feet high.  Congress approved the bill and sponsored to construct this memorial in 1910. Designed by Henry Bacon, construction began in 1914, and the memorial was opened to the public in 1922. The Memorial is visited by millions of visitors each year and is the site of many large public gatherings and protests.  There are conflicting reports about the materials this statue is made from.  Some websites claim Massachusetts granite makes up part of the memorial, while others provide consensus that the specific granite is actually Milford pink granite.  Milford pink granite is just as popular and widely used as Stony Creek granite, and therefore, there can be confusion between the two. This Milford pink granite is one of Milford, Massachusetts’s greatest known assets.  This Milford pink granite can be found on the foundation steps up to the memorial, around the base of the memorial to represent the South, as well as the lower steps in the Lincoln Memorial.  A portion of the decoration in the walkway up to the Lincoln Memorial is a quartz cobblestone set off by unpolished blocks of Massachusetts granite. Recent renovations by the National Park Service have since removed the local Potomac cobblestones and replaced them with exotic stones. The foundation steps of the memorial consist of granite from Milford, Massachusetts also.  The color is slightly pinkish due to the presence of large crystals of orthoclase feldspar, and the flecks of dark biotite are also visible.  As renovations continue to occur on monuments, there was talk in the past year of renovating the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  As Milford pink granite is a very beautiful and popular granite, there has been talk of tying in more Milford pink granite to the new renovations of the pool to go along with the pink granite in the Lincoln Memorial, claims the GW Hatchet.  While there is still confusion among many as to the specific granite contained in the Lincoln Memorial, there is no doubt that our Stony Creek pink granite from Connecticut can be spotted in the Lincoln Memorial at President Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky.

The book, Flesh and Stone:  Stony Creek and the Age of Granite, states that “The great beauty and strength that distinguish Stony Creek granite resulted from a unique progression of dynamic Earth processes that operated at intense pressures and temperatures deep within ancient mountain belts,” (8).  Stony Creek granite is said to be just pluton that solidified before it reached the Earth’s surface, and by definition is rock composed of relatively large crystals of a specific mineral.  No one really knows the precise origin of Stony Creek granite, but reputable geologists of the book, “Flesh and Stone:  Stony Creek and the Age of Granite”, believe that Stony Creek granite originated far from Branford where it is found today.  It is said that Stony Creek granite was once part of South America, and due to many earthquakes, that piece of South America broke off and collided with the eastern shore of North America.   That being the geological explanation for what makes Stony Creek granite what it is today, the industry of Stony Creek granite boomed following the Civil War.  During that time, Stony Creek’s rugged seaside landscape, with made it easy and cheap to transport by sea this unusually heavy cargo, transformed.  They were expanding, but it would be many years before granite was commonly used by American builders because it was so hard to work with.  Benjamin Green came along in 1858 and changed the granite life for good by opening the first quarry in the Stony Creek section of Branford.  It was the perfect location, for the land was at the present Hall’s Point between the Sound and the railroad.  He was able to then ship his granite by sea or rail, and at the height had up to 50 workers.  Unfortunately, in the 1860s Mr. Green suffered a severe accident, and he moved to New Haven while his nephew took over the quarry.  While in New Haven, Mr. Green purchased a railroad sidetrack and opened a granite stone yard.  He advertised he could fill orders for monuments, building stones, and cemetery work in short notice.  But tragedy struck again when Green’s nephew passed away from pneumonia, and his estate was unable to keep the quarry so it was closed and the land sold.  Even through all the rough times of Stony Creek granite quarry, it was the quarry that started everything.  After the Stony Creek granite quarry opened, many more quarries opened as well.  And Stony Creek quarry is still famous for providing one of the most popular and beautiful granites in the country.

 

DeFord, Deborah. Flesh and Stone: Stony Creek and the Age of Granite. Stony Creek, CT: Stony Creek Granite Workers Celebration/Leete's Island, 2000. Print.

http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc71.htm

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/abli/hrs/hrs3f.htm

http://www.ket.org/nationalparks/lincoln/closeup.htm

http://www.geol.umd.edu/courses/geol110/NationalMallGeology.pdf

http://www.nps.gov/abli/bicentennial-commencement-event.htm

http://www.gswweb.org/oconnor-fieldtrip.pdf

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM6XXR_Lincoln_Memorial_National_Park_Hodgenville_KY

http://www.gwhatchet.com/2010/04/08/reflecting-pool-to-undergo-planned-renovations-next-fall/

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 14:56  

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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.