Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Three:


In 1900, Pope returned to New York from Paris, and worked for various architects, including Bruce Price, before establishing his own office. By June 1907, Pope was at work on plans for the LFA Memorial Building, and in February 1908, Collier's Weekly published two renderings of the Lincoln farm design. [38] The plan represents an elaboration of Guérin and Lowell's concept of a formal, linear landscape with a memorial building and sculptural element at each terminus and set within the picturesque landscape of the farm. The progression from the earlier plan is obvious: the museum has become the multi-purpose memorial hall; the Saint-Gaudens statue has been replaced by a memorial column marking Lincoln's birthplace; and the tree-lined allee has been expanded to a memorial plaza.

Lincoln Birthplace Museu design
Figure 39: Pope's first plan for a "Lincoln Birthplace Museum," 1907. This initial concept for a large museum was beyond the financial reach of the Lincoln Farm Association.

The Memorial Building, estimated to cost $250,000, was the principal element of the commemorative landscape. It was a one-story, three-part Beaux-Arts classical building organized around an arcaded central court. As designed, the court had a removable roof that sheltered the birth cabin. The surrounding halls featured museum exhibits, and an auditorium was located in the main room. The main entrance was recessed and set within a triumphal arch that included four colossal columns in antis. [39]

The unornamented, planar wall surfaces of the proposed memorial building are characteristic of Pope's monumental designs and cam be seem in the tomb for William Batemam Leeds, a project Pope was completing while preparing designs for the LFA. The Leeds tomb, constructed in Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, New York, built from 1907 to 1909, features smooth ashlar walls and a bold cornice with much of the ornamentation concentrated around the maim entrance, similar to the proposed memorial building. Architectural historian Stephen Bedford believes the main facade in Pope's preliminary memorial building design is based on McKim's 1907 Morgan Library in New York, which has a similar three-part organization and entry articulated as a "wafer thin triumphal arch." [40] Clearly pleased with this architectural vision for the LFA, Pope resurrected the design in 1928 when he was hired by the American Pharmaceutical Association to design their headquarters in Washington, D.C. The building is today considered one of Pope's best works. [41]

On the knoll where it was believed Lincoln's birth cabin originally stood, opposite the Memorial Building, Pope called for a monumental column. This "simple shaft" maybe a reworking of a lost drawing entitled "Design for a Commemorative Monument on the Great Lakes." [42]

plan for Lincoln Birthplace Memorial
Figure 40: A Bird's-Eye View of Pope's First Plan For a Lincoln Birthplace Memorial as Illustrated in a 1908 Issue of Collier's Weekly

Pope may have been influenced by a series of monumental columns designed by Stanford White beginning with the unrealized 220-foot Detroit Bicentennial Column of 1899. White adapted this design for the 143-foot Prison Ship Martyr's Monument in Greene Park, Brooklyn, New York, of 1904-1909. In 1904, White designed the setting for Saint-Gaudens Seated Lincoln, located in Chicago's Grant Park. The design, which included two Doric columns, was not completed until the 1920's. [43]

Pope placed the Memorial Building and column at opposite ends of a long, rectangular grass plaza. The entire arrangement was surrounded by closely spaced Lombardy poplars, interrupted only by two meandering pathways. The trees focus attention on the Memorial Building and the column at opposite ends of the plaza, screening out the surrounding landscape. Con versely, views of the plaza and memorial structures could only be afforded from within the plaza. As compared to the Guérin and Lowell plan, Pope's design depicts a memorial that is somewhat isolated from the Lincoln farm and surrounding area.

The axial placement of horizontal and vertical elements and open space in Pope's first design for the Lincoln farm may have been inspired by the 1902 McMillan Commission Plan to re-establish Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original plan of then nation's capital, specifically, the portion of the Mall that included the Washington Monument, the reflecting pool, and the Lincoln Memorial. [44] Tellingly, the gentle grades depicted in Pope's renderings bear little resemblance to the hilly topography of the Lincoln farm and suggest that the drawings were produced before the architect visited the site. Regardless of the effect of the influential McMillan Commission Plan upon Pope's design for the Lincoln farm, a barrier other than topography would eventually confront the architect.

As Pope's plan was introduced in February 1908, the LFA had collected only $100,000 of the estimated $250,000 needed to complete the Memorial Building. [45] Funds were sought through Congressional appropriation, but none were forthcoming. [46] Between February and October 1908, less than one year before the centennial of Lincoln's birth and the projected dedication of the memorial, the LFA decided to modify the design in view of its limited financial resources.

In October 1908, Pope produced a set of eleven drawings — elevations, plans, and sections — that depict the Memorial Building largely as it was completed. [47] As suggested by the drawings, the memorial efforts shifted from a memorial museum and landscape to a more modest memorial building to enshrine the birth cabin with a landscaped approach. The Beaux-Arts classical building was constructed by Norcross Brothers Construction Company of Worcester Massachusetts, the nation's first general contractor and one of the most important construction companies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As built, the Memorial Building is situated on the knoll where some believed the Lincoln birth cabin originally stood. The difference between Pope's original and revised plans reflects a fundamental change in the way Pope integrated the natural topography of the site with his architecture. No doubt recognizing the dramatic perspective afforded by the knoll, Pope placed the Memorial Building on this natural pedestal and used its incline for a dramatic stairway approach. Four sets of granite stairs ascend the terraced hill. Nearly thirty-seven feet wide at the base, the stairs narrow to thirty feet at the summit. [48]

dedication ceremony
Figure 41: Assembled crowd at the 1911 dedication of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial

Pope's rising, processional approach to the Memorial Building was enhanced by his landscaping plan, an arrangement of ornamental hedges, trees, and open space evocative of his original plaza plan of 1908, albeit placed on an inclined plane. At the 1911 dedication, the landscape consisted of terraced grass panels outlined by low hedges with an additional parallel line of hedges that flanked the stairs. A row of Lombardy poplars was planted just outside and parallel to each of the the two outside hedgelines. The October drawings do not include this landscape, but photographs from the 1911 dedication ceremony indicate that these plantings were in place, including the Lombardy poplars. [49] The stairway included pea gravel landings at the top of each set of stairs. Pope also included a large gravel entry plaza with a central flagpole at the foot of the stairway. The court was bordered by low hedges, effectively defining the entire memorial site as separate from the rest of the farm property. This open area at the foot of the stairs provided the visitor a dramatic perspective of the Memorial Building high in the distance, a goal to be reached by gradual accent. Just as it did in his original plan, Pope's use of Lombardy poplars created a simple but powerful framework for the entire setting.

The Sinking Spring, located just west of the stairs, remained in its natural state and the remaining grounds were grassed, wooded, or under cultivation. Visitors entered the court from the south and the east. Four pink granite markers, two incised with "Lincoln Birthplace Memorial," marked the unpaved entrance road.

The formal landscape Pope conceived for the Memorial Building was very similar to the McKinley National Memorial. Designed by New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle, the McKinley Memorial was dedicated in September 1907, four months after Pope began work on plans for the Lincoln farm. The pink granite mausoleum is circular in plan with a diameter of seventy-five feet and features a dome and triumphal-arch entrance. More significantly, the building is set on a terraced knoll ascended by four sets of broad marble stairs with wide abutments. "Long rows of trees, uniformly planted," [50] line both sides of the

approach, originally a reflecting pool that was drained by 1930. Although the rows of trees are situated below the terraced stairs, the entire arrangement recalls Pope's landscape treatment for the Lincoln Memorial Building. [51]

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2003