Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Four:

Management recommendations for the Site address record-keeping, research needs, interpretation, and resource management. To facilitate cultural resource management, park files should be kept current to reflect all maintenance and alterations to structures and landscape features. Historic photographs and materials relating to the Lincoln Farm Association should continue to be catalogued and indexed to facilitate retrieval by NPS staff, researchers, and interested visitors and for future use in interpretive exhibits. As mentioned in the park's Resource Management Plan (RMP), digital conversion of the voluminous donor files of the LFA would make them more accessible to visitors and researchers.

The War Department period (1916-1933) is particularly important at this Site, because the current appearance of the plaza, Sinking Spring, pathways and stone walls, main parking lot, and access road was largely created during that period. Peterson's administrative history sheds considerable light on the War Department years, and War Department plans and drawings from the National Archives were used in preparing the HRS. Further research in War Department records, particularly those not transferred to the NPS but remaining in War Department record groups, would provide more complete documentation for this period. Areas for additional research include the sequence and intent of improvements and the sources of labor. The Park should investigate and verify if any records relating to the construction, maintenance, and improvements made at the Site remain at Mammoth Cave National Park. If such records exist, arrangements should be made to obtain copies for the Park's reference files.

The Site is significant not only as Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, but because it reflects early twentieth century attitudes on the commemoration of famous Americans through architecture and landscape design. Commemoration merits more emphasis as an interpretive theme, and the cultural contexts and themes discussed in the Park's RMP should be reconsidered. For example, the RMP notes that "the Civil War" was determined to be the proper cultural context for the Park. Although the Civil War is clearly related to the history of Abraham Lincoln, it is not the best context in which to interpret the Site. An expanded interpretive program focusing on the creation and development of the Site by the Lincoln Farm Association, including the prominent Americans involved and prevalent societal attitudes toward historical figures, would enhance visitors' experience of the Site. This could be accomplished through exhibits at the visitor center and through interpretation of the memorial landscape itself. Materials existing in the park's archival collection already provide a basis for new exhibits. In addition, the topic of the disputed authenticity of the birthplace cabin could be an engaging one for future interpretation. The cabin's spurious origins have been well known for sometime, and are less a source of controversy than they are a valuable backdrop to discuss and interpret how American history is used and disseminated to the public.

The major historic resources at the Site are the symbolic birthplace cabin, the Memorial Building and its landscape setting, the paths and walls leading to the plaza and the Sinking Spring, and the Sinking Spring itself. The site of the Boundary Oak remains an important historic resource, although the loss of the great tree has affected its interpretive potential. The replanting of another tree to symbolize the original should be considered. This action would fit well into "Goal III" as written in the Park's RMP plan outline. Management recommendations relating to the Boundary Oak site are addressed in the Cultural Landscape Report (CLR) for the park. The formal character of the Memorial Building and its four flights of steps are little changed from their 1911 appearance. Past modifications to doors and windows and recommendations regarding their treatment are noted in a recently completed Historic Structure Report (HRS). It is likely, although not certain, that the original circular court at the base of the steps was an expedient dictated by limited funds, rather that a fully worked-out design decision. The formal rectangular plaza constructed by the War Department in the late 1920s is in keeping with the formality and symmetry of Pope's building and stairs and has acquired its own significance. Although some materials have been replaced, the plaza maintains considerable integrity. The War Department-era stone steps descending from the parking area and the walls and steps leading to the Sinking Spring are also important historic features. The plantings flanking the Memorial Building steps, though not employing the original species, accomplish the same effect of screening the view to the left and right and creating a ceremonial approach corridor. The designed landscape and Memorial Building are historically and aesthetically linked and contribute equally to the visitor's experience of the Site. Management recommendations for the designed landscape and an analysis of its current and historic vegetation are addressed in the CLR.

Any proposed changes to the landscape setting of the Memorial Building or historic walls, paths, and steps must be evaluated through the Section 106 process. Historic materials, such as limestone wall slabs and pavers, should be retained, and if feasible, reintroduced where they have been removed. The feeling of the overall design, with its emphasis on axiality, symmetry, and a well-defined ceremonial approach to the Memorial Building, should be preserved and maintained. In addition, the park should develop and implement standard procedures for collecting and maintaining historic architectural elements and/or building materials that result from repair, maintenance, or rehabilitation activities.

The historic granite entrance markers now lying in the woods east of U.S. 31E should be moved to a secure area and preserved. Future research may indicate their original locations and allow their re-erection. Failing that, consideration should be given to using them as exhibits in the park's interpretive program.

Finally, the park's RMP should be amended to reflect the historic and landscape analyses contained in the HRS and the CLR. Future decisions concerning interpretation, planting plans, choice of species, and similar issues, need to be based on this most recent research.

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2003