THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE LINCOLN BIRTHPLACE MEMORIAL, 1906-1911 (continued)
In late 1906, the Lincoln Farm Association (LFA) commissioned landscape architects Jules Guérin and Guy Lowell to develop a plan for a memorial building and landscape treatment.  The preliminary plan, published in a series of views in Collier's Weekly, included a historical museum, a statue of Lincoln. and a formal landscape.  A tree-lined avenue linked the Lincoln farm with the town of Hodgenville, three miles to the north. A copy of Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Standing Lincoln was to be placed at the intersection of this avenue and a short allee that terminated at the historical museum. A bird's-eye view of the museum depicts a three-part composition with two colossal columns flanking the main entrance. A detail of the proposed museum, however resembles the south facade of the White House. The surrounding cultivated fields and the proposed meandering paths contrast sharply with the formal landscape.
In April 1907, the Board of Directors of the LFA asked board member Thomas Hastings, of the architectural firm Carrere and Hastings, to "select a group of architects to compete for the design of the Memorial Building."  The architect Charles F. McKim was invited to participate in the selection process. Rather than establishing an architectural competition, McKim and Hastings simply awarded the commission to the promising young architect John Russell Pope. McKim and Hastings devoted much of their careers to late-nineteenth-century classicism and their selection of Pope further reveals their views on classicism as the appropriate style for memorial architecture.
Pope was exposed to classicism at the outset of his career. During the 1880s, before reaching the age of seven teen, Pope entered the office of the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, working closely with McKim for several years.  In 1891, Pope began his formal study of architecture under William R. Ware at Columbia University. He graduated in 1894, winning McKim's scholarship to the American Academy in Rome and a second award for travel. Pope spent two years in Greece and Italy, producing sketches and measured drawings of such monuments as the Acropolis and the Baths of Caracalla. In 1896, Pope traveled to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1897 to 1899. Pope's "grand tour" of Europe and his education at the Ecole contributed to his eventual mastery of, and inclination towards, classical architecture.
The system of architectural education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts was based on lectures and practical experience gained in ateliers, or studios, of established architects. Students advanced in the program through a series of design competitions; Pope won the Jean Le Claire Prize for architectural design in 1898. Central to the Ecole's system was the primacy of the parti, or central idea of a design as seen in its logical development. The classical orders and the decorative vocabulary of classical and Renaissance architecture were also emphasized.  The clarity of plan and circulation Pope learned at the Ecole can be seen in his early monumental work such as the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington, D.C., of 1910.
Building on his formal training at the Ecole, Pope developed his own classical manner in the United States, and continually refined his own architectural style until his death in 1937. All of his buildings are, arguably, in the classical style, but it became too easy for many critics to dismiss Pope's work as formulaic. According to Richard Chaffee, "Pope was the foremost inheritor of McKim's severe classicism," and Joseph Hudnut labeled him "The Last of the Romans."  Al though McKim undoubtedly influenced his designs, Pope's own particular interpretation of classical architecture resulted in distinctive compositions. Pope was adept at using building materials to accentuate the mass and volume of his works. Large blank walls devoid of ornamentation or fenestration gave a modernistic quality to many of Pope's buildings, even though they incorporated the reassuring vocabulary of the classical orders. The National Gallery is a prime example of this more restrained Beaux Arts classicism. Along with architects such as Bertram Goodhue and Paul Phillippe Cret, Pope sought to reinterpret the Beaux Arts style to create a distinctively American architectural idiom.  Importantly, Pope also understood the modern purposes that his buildings had to serve, and he saw in the logical plans and forms of classical architecture solutions to the practical problems of creating functional public buildings for a modern society. It would not be inaccurate to consider Pope a progressive classicist, one who used classical architecture as a foundation for contemporary architectural expressions.  As one more recent critic has argued of Pope's classicizing buildings, they are "neither copies nor revivals." 
As Chicago's Prairie School architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and European modernists such as Le Corbusier abandoned Beaux Arts classicism, Pope continued to design buildings in the classical tradition until his death in 1937. His buildings are known to anyone who has visited our nation's capital. These include the large, public commissions such as Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1929; the National Archives Building, 1933-35; the Jefferson Memorial, 1937; and the National Gallery of Art, 1937-41. Because of these highly public and highly cherished works, Pope's classical architecture remains symbolic of the ideals of American democracy.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2003