Abraham Lincoln Birthplace
Historic Resource Study
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The Historic Resource Study (HRS) identifies and evaluates, using National Register criteria, the historic resources within the park. The study establishes and documents historic contexts associated with the park and evaluates the extent to which the historic resources represent those contexts. The completed HRS will serve as a tool for future Site planning, resource management, and the continuing development of interpretive programs at the park.

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site was entered on the National Register of Historic Places October 15, 1966. National Register documentation for the Site was accepted December 17, 1977. Currently, the National Register boundary encompasses the entire Site. National Register additional documentation that will be prepared from this HRS will retain the Site boundary as the National Register district boundary. The Memorial Building, terraces, court, stone walls and paths, and Sinking Spring, developed by the LFA and the War Department between 1909 and 1933, constitute the core of the memorial landscape, but the Site itself was all part of the historic Thomas Lincoln farm. The goal of the LFA was to set aside the entire Site as a memorial to Lincoln, although only a portion of it was given a more formal treatment. In the 1950s, NPS removed a number of buildings—the Creal House, a picnic pavilion, and a comfort station—from the Site and reconfigured parking areas to accommodate a new visitor center.


Survey Methodology

Goals of the historic resource survey of the park are to 1) update the List of Classified Structures (LCS) database for the park for use by park management; 2) prepare a Historic Resource Study for the park; 3) update the park's National Register documentation; and 4) assemble a comprehensive structural survey consisting of completed Kentucky State Heritage Council survey forms, when applicable, and a photographic record for each structure built prior to 1950 and considered eligible for listing in the National Register. This will be used in complying with Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Initially, the survey team examined building files, maintenance records, historic research compiled by the park staff, and maps located at the park headquarters. The field survey of the park yielded information on the present condition of the historic resources. Additionally, the team reviewed archival materials at the Southeast Regional Office of the National Park Service. Research with primary and secondary sources was conducted at the park library and research libraries to obtain information relating to Lincoln's life and legacy and the creation and development of the Site.


This study assesses eligibility and evaluates historic integrity of the Site's historic resources within two historic contexts identified and refined by the survey team. These contexts relate to historic themes identified by the National Park Service and the Kentucky Heritage Council. The thematic framework of the NPS is outlined in Revision of the National Park Service's Thematic Framework 1996. Kentucky historic contexts are developed within an overall framework that employs three elements: geographic area, time period, and theme. The NPS thematic framework uses similar historical building blocks: people, time, and place, in addition to eight overlapping themes and associated topics, several of which are relevant to this HRS. The following four chapters form this study:

Chapter One: The Importance of Abraham Lincoln and his Birthplace

Chapter Two: Lincoln Commemoration and the Creation and Development of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, 1865-1935

Chapter Three: The American Public Memorial and the Design and Construction of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial, 1906-1911

Chapter Four: Management Recommendations

Because Abraham Lincoln is one of America's most famous historic figures, Chapter One serves as an overview of his life, his national significance, and how each relates to his Kentucky birthplace; it is not a historic context in itself Chapter Two and Chapter Three represent the two historic contexts noted above. Chapter Two relates to NPS theme II "Creating Social Institutions and Movements," specifically, that theme's topic of "clubs and organizations." The topic of "recreational activities" is also addressed in the chapter. Chapter Three relates to NPS theme III "Expressing Cultural Values," and addresses the topics of "architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design," "educational and intellectual currents," and "popular and traditional culture." Chapter Two begins in 1865, the year of Lincoln's death, when commemorative activity began, and ends in 1935, which marked the completion of major development activity at the Site during the historic period. Chapter Three begins in 1906, the year the Lincoln Farm Association was formed, and ends in 1911, the year of dedication of the Memorial Building. Within the Kentucky historic context framework, the two contexts developed for the HRS relate to the geographic area of the Pennyroyal. Chapter Two relates to the time periods 1865-1918 (Kentucky in the Age of Industrialization) and 1918-1945 (Between the Wars), while Chapter Three relates to the 1865-1918 period only. Kentucky has not identified commemoration as a general theme; aspects of Chapter Two relate to the broad Kentucky themes of commerce and transportation. Chapter Three relates to the Kentucky themes of architecture and landscape.

Four historic contexts developed for a National Register nomination for the LaRue County Multiple Resource Area also proved useful in developing contexts for the HRS. These contexts are The Growth and Development of LaRue County, ca. 1780-1865; The Growth and Development of LaRue County, 1865-1940; The Growth and Development of Hodgenville, 1865-1940; and Lincoln Iconography, 1909-1940. [9]


The Historical Base Map depicts the existing contributing and noncontributing resources of the park, as well as roads, trails, parking areas, and visitor facilities. The boundary of the park corresponds with that of the National Register District. The original National Register nomination addressed only the Traditional Birthplace Cabin and the Memorial Building. Future updates of National Register documentation should address the other park features noted in the HRS, especially the Memorial Building landscape. The park's Mission 66-era structures should also be addressed in any future cultural resource documentation.


1. Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (New York: Modern Library, 1968), 7; Louis A. Warren, Lincoln's Parenthood and Childhood (New York: Century Co., 1926), 75; The National Parks: index 1991 (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, Office of Public Affairs and Division of Publications, 1991), 41. As is noted in Chapter One of this study, Thomas Lincoln never held clear title to the Sinking Spring Farm.

2. LaRue County was created in 1843 from a portion of Hardin County (Philip Thomason, "LaRue County Multiple Resource Area," Draft National Register of Historic Places Documentation Form, November 19, 1990, E3).

3. Federal Writers' Project, Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State, American Guide Series, sponsored by the University of Kentucky and the Works Project Administration (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1939), 10-11; Thomason, E1-E3; Albert J. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln: 1809-1858, vol. I (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928), 26-27.

4. Thomas, 7; Warren, 87; Beveridge, vol. I, 3-4, 23-25.

5. Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982), 188; Warren, 11-12. Thomas Lincoln leased a portion of the Knob Creek farm only in 1815, but county commissioners' tax books indicate that he occupied the farm as a renter beginning in 1811 (Warren, 109-11).

6. Gloria Peterson, An Administrative History of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, Division of History, 1968), 19-23; Roy Hays, "Is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Cabin Authentic?" The Abraham Lincoln Quarterly 5 (September 1948): 152-53.

7. Peterson, 30, 33-4; The National Parks: Index 1991, 41.

8. "Statement for Management, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park" (National Park Service, Hodgenville, Kentucky, April 25, 1989, Typescript), 10-11.

9. Thomason, E1.

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2003