This monument feels like it was built by gods. It’s massive size of 190 feet long and 119 feet wide and reaching a height of almost 100 feet makes anyone who walks into the space feel so minuscule. Towering over the Reflecting Pool, anchoring the western end of the National Mall this has been the site for many memorable events such as Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.
The handsome marble columns are surrounded by greenery – a design inspired by ancient Greek temples. There are 36 columns, each one representing one state in the U.S. at the date of President Lincoln’s death. From the chamber of the memorial, one can appreciate the different stones used in its construction.The terrace walls and lower steps comprise granite blocks from Massachusetts – the upper steps, outside facade, and columns contain marble blocks from Colorado – the interior walls and columns are Indiana limestone – the floor is pink Tennessee marble – the ceiling tiles are Alabama marble – and the Lincoln statue comprises 28 pieces of Georgia marble. These building materials may seem random, but Henry Bacon specifically chose each one to tell a very specific story. A country torn apart by war can come together, not only to build something beautiful but also explain the reunification of the states.
Within the interior etched into the wall, is a memorable quote: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” Below the quote sits a 19-foot tall, 175-ton statue of President Lincoln, himself looking out over the Mall of the country that he fought so hard to preserve and unite.
Despite all the history and symbolism the Lincoln Memorial represents, it has been featured in many cinematic applications making it’s way into the fabric of pop culture. Which in my opinion truly marks the importance and significance it has in the hearts of Americans. As author Jay Sacher writes:
From high to low, the memorial is cultural shorthand for both American ideals and 1960s radicalism. From Forrest Gump’s Zelig-like insertion into anti-war rallies on the steps of the memorial, to the villainous Decepticon robots discarding the Lincoln statue and claiming it as a throne….The memorial’s place in the culture is assured even as it is parodied.