By John O'Brien Washington, DC
Tuesday, May 12, 2021
Twelve months from the celebration of the Lincoln Memorial's 100th birthday and information about plans is hard to discover. Philanthropist David Rubenstein announced his gift of $18 million in February 2016 to help restore the aging monument in time for the centennial. There was a progress report in 2018 about the renovation work and description of how the cavernous basement (undercroft) will be developed and opened for interpretive displays (Michael Ruane, "For the Lincoln Memorial, a Top-to-bottom Makeover," Washington Post, June 15, 2018), but very little by way of update since. The Lincoln Group will bring you news on the project status and highly anticipated commemoration as we learn more.
Details of the planned repair work on the Lincoln Memorial have remained unchanged on the National Park Service (NPS) website for some time. "The purpose of this project is to rehabilitate the Lincoln Memorial for its centennial in 2022. This project will include the rehabilitation of the undercroft portion of the Lincoln Memorial and improving existing visitor services on the mezzanine level, including expanded restrooms, improved accessibility, expanded visitor interpretation spaces, and expanded NPS support and service spaces." The NPS is under the US Department of the Interior and is legally responsible for the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial.
Specific improvements include cleaning the building, repairing the roof, structural reinforcement and repair of earthquake damage, adding an elevator, expanding restroom facilities, and restoring the landscaping. The Jules Guérin murals located on the north and south interior walls will also be cleaned.
Among the more exciting aspects of the project will be to open 15,000 square feet of public space in the undercroft beneath the memorial (pictured below) to offer state-of-the-art educational exhibits and classrooms. New interpretative exhibits and media will advance visitor understanding of Abraham Lincoln, the memorial's construction, and urban planning in the nation's capital. Visitors will now be able to view the foundations that anchor the memorial to the bedrock and see the graffiti of the construction workers who built it in the early 20th century.
The Lincoln Memorial was designed by architect Henry Bacon (1866-1924) and constructed between 1914 and 1922, the memorial takes the form of a Greek temple and features a portrait sculpture of the Great Emancipator by Daniel Chester French. The picture below shows the men positioning the cornerstone for its dedication ceremony in 1914. No doubt some of these made their marks on the underground walls.
There is a planning group designated to plan for the centennial. The Committee of 100 of the District is making arrangements while monitoring and commenting on the building improvements that are expected to be completed by 2022.