Lincoln Memorial

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Lincoln Memorial inspires awe

Lincoln MemorialAlmost everyone knows what the Lincoln Memorial looks like from the outside; it’s on the back of the $5 bill and most pennies. But that doesn’t give you any sense of the awe this monument inspires among its visitors, white and black Americans in particular. The contemplative, almost otherworldly Lincoln is 19 feet tall (he would be 28 feet tall standing up). The beautifully restored murals—60 feet wide, 12 feet tall, and 37 feet above some of Lincoln’s most important quotations—are neoclassical allegories, with angels, muses, and goddesses representing Unification (on the north wall) and Emancipation (on the south).

The Angel of Truth strikes the shackles from a slave, as Justice and Immortality stand as witnesses. Some of the most historic moments of the civil rights struggle took place on the steps: Soprano Marian Anderson sang here in 1939 after being barred from DAR Constitution Hall. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech here in 1963 (look for the five lines from that speech carved into the steps). President Obama’s Inauguration kicked off here with an all-star concert that drew nearly 400,000.

Lincoln Memorial Touring Tips

Rangers offer interpretive tours every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m., and there is so much symbolism built into the memorial that it is worth hearing. The Legacy of Lincoln museum in the memorial’s basement deserves a brief peek. You’ll find exhibits about demonstrations held at the memorial and a video recounting the building’s history. No food is available on site, though there are restrooms in the circle. After a $34-million renovation, the reflecting pool is once again the impressive sight it was. At night, facing west across the Potomac River, you can see the eternal flame at John F. Kennedy’s grave.

The Lincoln Memorial is located at the west end of the Mall. The nearest Metro stations are Smithsonian or Foggy Bottom–GWU. The Lincoln Memorial is open year round and rangers are on duty 9:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., except December 25.

Visiting Washington D.C. soon? Check out our blog posts:
– Iconic hotels in Washington D.C.
– National Air and Space Museum – A Smithsonian museum
– Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Underrated DC Museums

A complete review of all D.C. Museums can be found in the Unofficial Guide to Washington D.C.

Photo credits: By David Bjorgen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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