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What Is the Lincoln Memorial?

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.
A 2006 penny showing the Lincoln Memorial.
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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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The Lincoln Memorial is a national memorial built to honor Abraham Lincoln, the United States' 16th president. Located at the west end of the National Mall in Washington, DC, it was dedicated in 1922. A statue of a seated Lincoln is housed in a structure similar to the Parthenon, an ancient Greek temple. The memorial is an outdoor monument that is visited by millions of tourists each year. It has also been the site of numerous political gatherings.

Abraham Lincoln was widely respected as a man who rose from humble beginnings to become a national war hero. As a U.S. Senator and, eventually, the 16th president, he was also a champion of civil rights. Among his many achievements, Lincoln was known for his Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, which effectively abolished slavery. Later, he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, in 1865.

The creation of the Lincoln Memorial was originally proposed in 1867, when Congress passed a bill incorporating a commission to build the monument. The project was started but was never completed due to a lack of funding. The next Congressional bill to create the memorial was not approved until 1910, and there was some disagreement over where it would be built. Construction began in 1914, and the monument opened to the public in May 1922. It was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

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Constructed primarily of marble and granite, the Lincoln Memorial was designed by the architect Henry Bacon, and the statue of Lincoln seated inside the building was created by sculptor Daniel Chester French. The marble statue sits on a pedestal and is 19 feet (5.8 m) tall. The interior chambers contain many inscriptions and decorative murals. For example, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg address are inscribed on the inner walls of the monument.

Maintained by the U.S. National Park Service, the Lincoln Memorial faces the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument. It served as the backdrop for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. It has been the site of many other speeches and demonstrations, as well. The memorial also appears on some U.S. currency. It is depicted on the back of the five-dollar ($5) bill, and was on the penny until 2008, when the one-cent coin was redesigned.

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