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Lincoln Memorial Gets Monumental Gift

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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One of the nation’s most beloved memorials will be repaired and restored for generations to come thanks to an $18.5 million donation.

From masonry repairs and cleaning to an expansion of exhibit spaces, the Lincoln Memorial, first opened in 1922, will be re-imagined and refreshed over the next four years, the National Park Service announced Monday (Feb. 15). The memorial, which honors the 16th President of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln, sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial
© / GBlakeley

The iconic Lincoln Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will be restored over the next four years. The neoclassical building was designed by New York architect Henry Bacon.

The site welcomes 7 million visitors each year and officials say it will remain open throughout most of the project.

Gift of Restoration

The funding for the project comes from David Rubenstein, a billionaire philanthropist and businessman with a history of donating millions to help restore the country’s treasured landmarks, including the Washington Monument.

“I am humbled to be a part of honoring this great man and preserving this iconic memorial for future generations,” Rubenstein said in a statement. The funding will also help to expand educational resources and foster public access to the memorial.

The upcoming work will be the biggest overhaul of the memorial since its dedication, the Washington Post reported. The newspaper describes the “marble-columned edifice housing the 120-ton statute of a seated and contemplative Lincoln” as “one of the most elegant and hallowed memorials in the country.”

Project Details

Specifically, the Park Service says the restoration work will include:

  • Repairs to damaged brick and marble masonry;
  • Cleaning the memorial;
  • Conservation of the 60-foot-long Jules Guérin murals located above the memorial's inscriptions;
  • Creation of approximately 15,000 square feet of functional space including exhibit, education and research areas; and
  • The addition of an elevator to improve accessibility.

Further, officials plan to complete a special project to provide future visitors with a glimpse of the memorial’s foundational pillars, which anchor the memorial to the bedrock.

Lincoln Memorial
© / GetUpStudio

The nineteen-foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln, a central focus of the memorial, was designed by Massachusetts sculptor Daniel Chester French.

Also planned is a project to expose some of the charcoal graffiti apparently left by the construction workers who built the monument in the early 20th century.

"These improvements will hopefully enable more people to better understand and appreciate Abraham Lincoln's remarkable leadership during one of the most trying periods in American history," Rubenstein said.

Among Rubenstein's past gifts benefitting the Park Service are $7.5 million to restore the Washington Monument after the earthquake in 2011 and $12.35 million to restore Arlington House, the memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Government; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Monuments; North America; philanthropy; Rehabilitation/Repair; Restoration; Stone

Comment from john lienert, (2/17/2016, 7:33 AM)

thank-you Mr. Rubenstein !!

Comment from John Fauth, (2/17/2016, 9:18 AM)

We're all indebted to good people like Mr. Rubenstein.

Comment from Joseph Smith, (2/17/2016, 11:20 AM)

I'm curious as to what happens to the money that is donated for entry into these parks or where the money ends up when a production company uses these sites as a back drop for their movies, Planet of the Apes, Transformers, etc. I agree, thanks to Mr. Rubenstein, but shouldn't the government be on the hook for managing money better to take care of our heritage? Use the money where it was intended.

Comment from John Fauth, (2/18/2016, 9:42 AM)

Joseph, that money is allocated to study the locomotion methods employed by brine shrimp.

Comment from Joseph Berchenko, (2/18/2016, 11:18 AM)

The Lincoln Memorial is completely free and open to the public 24/7/365 as are all the national monuments in DC.

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (2/23/2016, 11:29 AM)

Oh right - the guy that was talking with Bin Laden's brother about investments during the 9/11 attacks...

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