Road trips

Return to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace

I’m sure it’s common to be fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. From where I live in central Indiana, it’s easy to indulge that fascination: Lincoln’s childhood and early adult life played out across southern Illinois, southern Indiana, and central Kentucky. Monuments to Lincoln abound, all reached within one tank of gas.

So I’ve visited Lincoln’s Indiana and Kentucky boyhood homes, the place where his family crossed into Illinois, where he legislated in Illinois, and — three times now — where he was born in Kentucky. This third time was while my sons and I were on Spring Break earlier this month. Mammoth Cave is just 40 miles southwest, so we swung by on our way home from there.

A monument to Lincoln

Two numbers figure prominently into the monument to Abe’s birthplace: 16, because he was the 16th President, and 56, because he was 56 when he was assassinated. When you visit, you experience 56 first: count the steps.

A monument to Lincoln

Inside, you’ll find 16 windows, 16 rosettes in the ceiling, and 16 poles through which the guard chain threads. There’s just one cabin, of course, though it’s not the one in which Lincoln was actually born. Nobody knows what became of it. But this one is representative.

Replica cabin

My favorite detail on the monument building is the lions on the doors.

Lion knocker

This property is known as Sinking Spring because of a recessed spring. These steps lead up from the spring.

Steps

Abraham Lincoln had no memories of this place. His family moved when he was 2, to a nearby farm that is also a national park. It was closed this day, or we would have visited it, too. The Lincolns stayed there just five years before moving to Indiana.


Check out photos from my previous visit to Lincoln’s birthplace here.

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6 thoughts on “Return to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace

  1. I imagine Lincoln would get a laugh out of seeing his birthplace be turned into such a grand monument. As a kid growing up in central Illinois I heard so much about Lincoln that I thought sometimes that he was still alive. My favorite Lincoln place around here is a stretch of road between Urbana and Danville that Lincoln took when he was riding the circuit. It is a country road that has the same alignment that the road had in Lincoln’s day. Even though that farms are much more advanced now, it still isn’t difficult to imagine what it would have been like to travel that road more than 150 years ago.

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  2. Richard says:

    Jim,

    My wife and I were driving back from Nashville on our way to Chicago when we saw a sign that said: Lincoln’s Birthplace, 10 miles. She asked if I wanted to visit it. I smiled and laughed, “Are you kidding me?”.

    We will never know what Lincoln would say about this grand yet beautiful monument to him at Sinking Springs where he was born. But when asked if the town Lincoln, IL was named after him Lincoln said: “Well, I was alive when they named it.”

    Jim, if you enjoy Lincoln sites, visit the Mt. Pulaski, IL courthouse (30 miles from Springfield, IL). The 2nd floor is to my knowledge original from when Lincoln practiced law in the courthouse. You can sit quietly in the 2nd floor of the courthouse and imagine what it was like when a tall, skinny lawyer named Abraham Lincoln practiced law in Mt. Pulaski.

    Best Wishes,

    Richard

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  3. hmunro says:

    What a marvelous post, Jim — and what wonderful images! I especially love your use of perspective; those steps in the first two images look very daunting indeed. The log cabin is a bit of a curiosity though, isn’t it? It seems funny to be to enshrine a facsimile like it’s a holy relic. But then, it seems Lincoln still looms large in our collective consciousness: Less than a month ago I read somewhere that Lincoln was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands. :)

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  4. Isn’t it startling how the monument looks different, proportionally, in the two shots I shared of it? Nothing like where you stand — and how much you zoom in — to change the way a thing looks.

    It is funny to enshrine not-at-all-the-original-cabin like that. But maybe the thinking in 1909, when this site was built, was different.

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