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Lincoln's Tomb

Lincoln Tomb and War Memorials State Historic Site
Location Springfield, IL
Built 1868-74
Architect Larkin Goldsmith Mead
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 66000330
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL December 19, 1960[2]

Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, is the final resting place of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons. The mausoleum is owned and administered by the State of Illinois as Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. It was designated one of the first National Historic Landmarks in 1960, and thus became one of the first listed National Historic Places in 1966, when that designation was created.


On April 15, 1865, the day President Lincoln died, a group of Springfield citizens formed the National Lincoln Monument Association and spearheaded a drive for funds to construct a memorial or tomb.[3] Upon arrival of the funeral train on May 3, Lincoln lay in state in the Illinois State Capitol for one night.[4] After the funeral the next day, his coffin was placed in a receiving vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery, the site Mrs. Lincoln requested for burial.[3] In December, her husband's remains were removed to a temporary vault not far from the proposed memorial site. The location of the temporary vault is today marked with a small granite marker on the hill behind the current tomb.[5] In 1871, three years after laborers had begun constructing the tomb, the body of Lincoln and those of the three youngest of his sons were placed in crypts in the unfinished structure.[4]

In 1874, upon completion of the memorial, which had been designed by Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Lincoln's remains were interred in a marble sarcophagus in the center of a chamber known as the "catacombs," or burial room.[3] In 1876, however, after two Chicago criminals failed in an attempt to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom, the National Lincoln Monument Association hid it in another part of the memorial, first under wood and other debris and then buried in the ground within the tomb. When Mrs. Lincoln died in 1882, her remains were placed with those of Lincoln, but in 1887 both bodies were reburied in a brick vault beneath the floor of the burial room.[4]

By 1895, the year the State acquired the memorial, it had fallen into disrepair.[3] During a rebuilding and restoration program in 1899–1901, all five caskets were moved to a nearby subterranean vault.[3] In the later year, State officials returned them to the burial room and placed that of Lincoln in the sarcophagus it had occupied in 1874–1876. Within a few months, however, at the request of Robert Todd Lincoln,[4] the President's only surviving son, the body was moved to its final resting place, a cement vault 10 feet (3.0 m) below the surface of the burial room. In 1930–1931 the State reconstructed the interior of the memorial. Rededicated in the later year by President Hoover, it has undergone little change since that time.[3]

The Lincoln Tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

Design and layout

The tomb is in the center of a 12½ acre (51,000 m²) plot.[3] Constructed of Massachusetts granite, it has a rectangular base surmounted by a 117-foot (36 m)-high obelisk and a semicircular entrance way. A bronze reproduction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum's head of Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol rests on a pedestal in front of the entrance way. Four flights of balustraded stairs—two flanking the entrance at the front and two at the rear—lead to a level terrace. The balustrade extends around the terrace to form a parapet. Originally open to the public, the terrace has since been closed due to safety concerns.

In the center of the terrace, a large and ornate base supports the obelisk. On the walls of the base are 37 hewn stones, cut to represent raised shields, each engraved with the name of a State at the time the tomb was built.[3] Each shield is connected to another by two raised bands, and thus the group forms an unbroken chain encircling the base. Four bronze statues adorn the corners of the latter. They represent the infantry, navy, artillery, and cavalry of the Civil War period. In front of the obelisk and above the entrance stands a full-length statue of Lincoln.[3]

The interior of the memorial, constructed of marble from Minnesota, Missouri, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Utah, Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium,[3] contains a rotunda, a burial room, and connecting corridors. A replica of the Daniel Chester French statue in the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C., dominates the entrance foyer. The walls of the rotunda are decorated with 16 marble pilasters, which are separated by marble panels. The pilasters symbolize Lincoln and the 15 Presidents who preceded him. The room also contains 36 bronze panels, one for each State at the time of Lincoln's death. The ceiling is of palladium leaf.

Corridors lead from the rotunda to the burial room at the rear of the memorial. Located in niches along the corridor walls are eight statues by prominent sculptors depicting various phases of Lincoln's life. Four bronze tablets on the walls are engraved with the Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, a portion of the second inaugural address, and a biographical sketch. Large gold stars in sets of 12 at each corner of the memorial represent the 48 States in the Union at the time of its remodeling.[3]

The burial room features black and white marble walls and a ceiling of gold leaf. At its center stands the cenotaph, a 7-ton block of reddish marble inscribed with Lincoln's name and the years he lived.[3] It marks the approximate location of the burial vault, which is 30 inches behind and 10 feet below. Nine flags are arranged in a semicircle around the cenotaph. Seven of them—the State flags of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois—commemorate the homes of Lincoln and his ancestors.[3] The eighth and ninth are the Stars and Stripes and the Presidential flag.[3] The inscription "Now he belongs to the ages," reputedly spoken by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton at the time of Lincoln's death, is inscribed in the wall above the U.S. Flag.[3] Along the south wall of the burial room are four crypts containing the remains of Mrs. Lincoln and three of Lincoln's four sons (his eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery).

The tomb was built with additional crypts for members of Lincoln's family in addition to the four spaces already used. However, as the remaining members of Lincoln's family decided not to be buried at the tomb, the other crypts remain empty.


The nose on Borglum's head of Lincoln remains shiny due to the tradition of rubbing Lincoln's nose for good luck. Thousands of visitors rub the nose at the base of the tomb each year, preventing the nose from tarnishing and forming the brown patina that covers the rest of the head.[6] Similarly, a plaque of George Eastman at MIT also has its nose rubbed to a golden sheen, due to a student tradition of rubbing it for good luck.

Although the rubbing of Lincoln's nose keeps it shiny, it also contributes to the erosion of the statue's metal, which causes a degradation of the original sculpture. Therefore, current and future visitors to the site may not be seeing the original nose of Lincoln.

Adjacent memorials

Also part of the site, and a short distance from the tomb, three war memorials have been erected:

1. The World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial was dedicated in December 2004. This memorial honors the 987,000 Illinois men who served in World War II and the 22,000 who gave their lives. Its focal point is a white 22-ton concrete globe flanked on two sides by black granite walls. Stainless steel buttons on the globe identify major battles, and quotations from military leaders, and Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman are engraved on the wall.

2. The Korean War Memorial honors 1,748 Illinoisans killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. This memorial was dedicated on June 16, 1996. The memorial consists of a twelve-foot-tall bronze bell, with a diameter of twelve feet, mounted on a granite base. At the circumference of the bell are four niches, each with a larger-than-life figure representing a branch of the armed services. Inscribed on the base are the names of Illinoisans killed in Korea. A carillion system in the Memorial plays brief musical programs at regular intervals.

3. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the almost 3,000 Illinoisans killed during the Vietnam War, and was dedicated in 1988. The memorial has a circular layout allowing visitors to enter the interior courtyard from any direction. The names of those killed or missing in action are on five granite slabs, each slab representing one of the branches of the United States Military.


  • Information taken from a National Parks Service website.

External links

  • Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site
  • National Historic Landmark information

Coordinates: 39°49′24″N 89°39′21″W / 39.82333°N 89.65583°W / 39.82333; -89.65583

de:Oak Ridge Cemetery#Abraham Lincolns Grab
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