This isn’t the usual view of this stunning bridge. Normally, it’s photographed from the Indiana side, in Vincennes. (See my photo from that side here.) Here, I shot it on the ground, on the other side of the Wabash River in Illinois.
It’s called the Lincoln Memorial Bridge because it was near this point that young Abraham Lincoln crossed into Illinois as they left their Indiana home behind. There’s a lovely memorial to this crossing on the Illinois side, not far from where I stood to photograph this bridge; see it here.
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.
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.
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.
My favorite detail on the monument building is the lions on the doors.
This property is known as Sinking Spring because of a recessed spring. These steps lead up from the spring.
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.
Abraham Lincoln began his political career where the old National Road ends, in Vandalia, in Illinois. He was elected to the state legislature in 1834, which was before the state capital moved north to Springfield. Actually, Lincoln was instrumental in getting the capital moved, which made him unpopular among Vandalians.
This is the Senate chamber in the old Vandalia statehouse. I arrived there one recent Saturday afternoon with just an hour to spare before daily tours ended. It capped a return visit to the National Road in Illinois, which I’ll be writing about in several blog posts to come. I shot this with my main road-trip camera, the Canon PowerShot S95.
I love the National Road. See everything I’ve written about it here.
My sons and I are just back from our biennial spring break trip. In 2007, we did an Indiana history tour, visiting historic sites all over the state. In 2009, we visited Washington, DC, and then followed the old National Road home – part of the road, anyway, as I wrecked the car in Ohio. Both trips were whirlwind tours, packed from end to end. This year we simply wanted to relax, so I rented us a cabin in the woods in Tennessee.
But I couldn’t resist picking up a thread that has run through all of our spring break trips to date. In 2007, we stopped to see Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana boyhood home. In 2009, our DC tour included the Lincoln Memorial. So when I saw that our route to Tennessee would pass within spitting distance of Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky, of course we had to stop.
This memorial building stands about where the Lincolns built their cabin. Theodore Roosevelt spoke when the cornerstone was laid; it was 12 February 1909, when Lincoln would have turned 100. William Howard Taft dedicated the building after it was completed in 1911. 56 steps lead to the memorial building, one for each year of Lincoln’s life.
My favorite detail on the memorial building is these great lions’ heads that guard its massive doors, two in the front and two in the rear.
A cabin stands inside. The Lincolns’ cabin is long gone, of course. This reproduction is thought to be similar to the original cabin.
Peering through the door, the stone fireplace glows.
16 flowers line the ceiling, 16 windows admit light, and 16 posts hold the chain surrounding the cabin, in case you forgot that Lincoln was the 16th President.
Lincoln also lived in Illinois, of course. A memorial stands on the site where his family entered from Indiana. Check it out.
I just love to find an old brick road. This one used to be US 50 as it entered Illinois after crossing the Wabash River from Vincennes, Indiana.
Notice how the fellow who owns that house parks his cars on the old highway? A roadgeek’s dream! Here’s the road headed west into Illinois. Notice how it flows right into the modern road ahead, a sure sign that this is the old alignment.
The bridge that used to connect to this brick road has been gone since the 1930s. I found this postcard image of that bridge. One part of the bridge was a steel arch truss, and another part was a wooden covered bridge!
Since 1933, a series of grand arches has linked Vincennes to Illinois. Here’s the bridge from the Vincennes side. But even this is no longer US 50; the road bypasses town to the north and crosses the Wabash over a bridge named after Red Skelton, who grew up here.
There are lots of photos of this bridge on the Internet, but I’ve yet to see any taken from the Illinois side. I’ve corrected that problem here.
I didn’t think much about how the 1933 bridge rose so high above the river until someone commented on one of these photos on Flickr that the area looked pretty good for having been under water so many times. The most recent flood was in June of 2008. Several square miles were under water in Illinois, including the old brick road and the house of that fellow who parked his cars on the bricks. (Suddenly, parking my car there didn’t seem so attractive anymore.) But the 1933 bridge was never under water.
This monument, which stands near the end of the bridge on the Illinois side several feet above the old brick road, wasn’t under water either. When young Abraham Lincoln crossed into Illinois, he and his family did it near this spot, and this monument commemorates it. It felt very cool to walk ground Lincoln walked.