The Memorial Building
The Memorial Building, completed in 1943, was designed and built in the spirit of Indiana in 1816. The architect described this spirit as:
Whatever is built should be a forthright expression of honesty, simplicity and dignity, qualities that we associate with Lincoln and his mother. There should be no false construction or design. Materials should be native and largely hand worked. Design should be suggested by the best practice of the days when Nancy Hanks was a young woman. Not a design suggestive of the log cabins she lived in but a type of structure that might have been built by one of the best builders of the period to commemorate an illustrious pioneer.
With this philosophy in mind, the building was designed with two halls and a connecting cloister. The resulting Memorial Court features five sculpted panels marking significant periods in the life of Abraham Lincoln. The Memorial is wholly a Hoosier creation, constructed of Indiana limestone and sandstone, with all timber cut from trees native to the area.
The interior walls of The Abraham Lincoln Hall are of St. Meinrad sandstone with cherry wainscoting. Thomas Lincoln often used cherry wood in his carpentry work. Solid, hand-hewn yellow poplar trusses support the ceiling of the hall. The joining of the timbers is indicative of the skill of the pioneer craftsman in the cabin construction. The rostrum at the front of the hall and the small balcony at the rear, as well as the pew-type seats are typical of early courthouses and meeting houses.
The Abraham Lincoln Hall is used for meetings, church services, weddings, and other special occasions. The strength and naturalness of this stone and wood hall reflect the grandeur and simplicity of the man, Abraham Lincoln.
The interior of The Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall is reminiscent of early Indiana days. The yellow poplar beams and columns, walnut wainscoting, and pegged oak floor – as well as the huge sandstone fireplace – speak to us of pioneer strength and perseverance. The furnishings and floor covering create a feeling for the simplicity of the modest pioneer home established by Abraham Lincoln’s mother.
The table, benches, and chairs are made of selected cherry wood. The large hand-braided rug, especially designed for the hall, and the window bench coverings are based on patterns Nancy Lincoln might have known. The fabric used here is wool, which was one of the most common clothing materials of the frontier. The mural painting over the fireplace depicts the location where the Lincoln’s crossed the Ohio River in 1816 as they headed for their new Indiana home.
Did You Know?
The Visitor Center was designed to be made out of Indiana materials available in the early 19th century.The handcut limestone came from Bloomington;the state Department of Conservation furnished the native timbers and finished lumber; and the cherry table, chairs, benches,and pews were custom made.