Early Proposals for a Memorial to Lincoln

 by Erin Carlson Mast

Three years after the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, Congress appropriated a large amount of money toward a memorial to him. As noted in a January 1912 issue of Harper’s Weekly, “The selection of a site for the Lincoln memorial at Washington is a question which is receiving attention throughout the United States. Congress has appropriated the sum of two million dollars, the largest amount ever authorized in this country for such a purpose….”Although the commission decided early on that a location between the Washington Monument and Potomac was an ideal place for the memorial, others tried to convince them to look at other potential locations in the city, including the Soldiers’ Home.The same author continued, “In the opinion of many who have given close study to the question, the consideration of the Meridian Hill and the Soldiers’ Home sites should have first place in the deliberations of the Congressional commission. … The Soldiers’ Home Grounds site possesses the grand qualities of isolation, of elevation, of unlimited area of beautifully treed parking, and of control of all surroundings affecting it. It is not too remotely situated and is easy of access. It is in the author’s opinion a location in the biggest, finest sense for a great memorial, and the finest in Washington for that purpose.” Interestingly enough, the author did not use the Lincoln connection to the Soldiers’ Home as part of his argument for building the memorial there. Indeed, he did not even mention Lincoln had ever been to the Home. Instead of the historical connection, the author promoted the elevation and relative isolation, which incidentally are two qualities that attracted the Lincolns to the Home.

A 1912 drawing in Harper’s Weekly of a proposed memorial to Abraham Lincoln on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home.
A second proposal for the memorial to be built in DC’s Meridian Hill Park.

Ms. Erin Mast is the curator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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