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16th President of the United States, 1861-April 1865
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Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site

Symbolic birthplace cabin
Symbolic birthplace cabin
National Park Service

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, was the first president born west of the Appalachian Mountains.  His birth in a log cabin at Sinking Springs Farm took place on February 12, 1809, when that part of Kentucky was still a rugged frontier.  When Abraham was two and a half his father moved his young family ten miles away to a farm on Knob Creek.  The story of Lincoln's journey from log cabin to the White House that began here has long been a powerful symbol of the unlimited possibilities of American life.  For almost a century, tourists and historians have come here to seek out the origins of the man and his virtues—honesty, unpretentiousness, tolerance, hard work, a capacity to forgive, and a clear-sighted vision of right and wrong. The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site consists of two units.  The centerpiece of the Birthplace unit is a symbolic birth cabin enshrined within a Neoclassical Memorial Building.  The Lincoln Boyhood Home unit is located at Knob Creek Farm, where the family lived from 1811 until 1816.

Lincoln’s father, Thomas, moved to Kentucky, then part of Virginia, with his parents about 1782, only seven years after Daniel Boone pioneered this uncharted region. By the time of his marriage to Nancy Hanks in 1806, he was a farmer and carpenter.  In 1808, he purchased 300 acres near the Sinking Spring, one of the area’s numerous springs whose water dropped into a pit and disappeared into the earth.  The soil was stony red and yellow clay, but the spring provided an important source of water. Near the spring was a white oak tree, a landmark that lived for approximately 195 years, the “last living link” to Abraham Lincoln. Only two years after he purchased it, Thomas Lincoln lost his land in a title dispute, which was not settled until 1816.

In 1811, the Lincolns leased 30 acres of a 230-acre farm in the Knob Creek Valley while waiting for the land dispute to be settled. The creek valley on this new farm contained some of the best farmland in Hardin County. A well-traveled road from Bardstown, Kentucky, to Nashville, Tennessee, ran through the property. Abraham Lincoln’s first memories are from his time here, working alongside his father, playing with his sister, and assisting his adored mother.  In the early years of his life, he learned from the self-sufficiency of pioneer farming and from short periods of schooling.  His attendance at subscription schools lasted only a few months. Lincoln may have begun to form his views on slavery here.  The Lincoln family belonged to an antislavery church. In 1816, when Abraham was seven years old, the family moved across the Ohio River to Indiana and settled at the present site of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

The Sinking Springs land changed hands several times after the Lincolns left in 1811. In 1894, Alfred W. Dennett, a New York businessman, purchased 110 acres of the property and shortly thereafter began to create a park known as "Lincoln Spring Farm" and "Lincoln Birthplace." In 1895, Dennett acquired a nearby, aging log cabin, which according to local tradition contained some of the original logs from the Lincoln cabin, and moved it to the site. Dennett dismantled and displayed the log cabin in a number of places.  In 1905, he had to sell the property at auction.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
National Park Service

As the centennial of Lincoln’s birth approached, interest in memorializing the 16th president increased.  Robert Collier, publisher of Colliers Weekly, bought the Sinking Springs Farm in 1905.  The following year, he and his associates formed the Abraham Lincoln Farm Association to create a suitable memorial.  They purchased the cabin and began work on the Memorial Building.  Over 120,000 individuals from across the country, including thousands of schoolchildren, contributed a total of about $350,000 for the memorial.  In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the cornerstone.  President William Howard Taft dedicated the memorial for the nation two years later.  In his remarks, he said that it would be a reminder of “the unexplained and unexplainable growth and development, from the humblest and homeliest soil, of Lincolns’ genius, intellect, heart, and character.”  The small, simple cabin represents the simplicity of Lincoln’s early years. While the gleaming granite and marble Memorial Building that houses the cabin, which the young John Russell Pope designed in the Neoclassical style, is an appropriate symbol of the honored position Lincoln holds in American memory.  The Knob Creek Farm property became part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in 2001.

The Birthplace unit consists of the Memorial Building and 116 acres of Thomas Lincoln's Sinking Spring Farm. Walking trails trace the paths of Lincoln’s earliest days, past the famous Sinking Spring, and the site of the boundary marker oak tree. The trails at the Knob Creek Farm unit trace the creek where young Abraham and friends used to work and play. 

Plan your visit

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, located at 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd. off of U.S. 31E, near Louisville, KY, consists of two units of the National Park System.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos.  The Birthplace Unit is open daily Labor Day through Memorial Day from 8:00am to 4:45pm and Memorial Day through Labor Day from 8:00am to 6:45pm. A visitor center at the Birthplace Unit houses exhibits on Lincoln and pioneer life and offers an audiovisual program. 

The Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek is open daily year round. Interpretive staff are available on Saturday and Sunday from April 1st until Memorial Day from 8:30am to 4:30pm and daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day 8:30am to 4:30pm. Several walking trails and picnic areas are available at both units. For more information including directions, visit the National Park Service Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site website or call 270-358-3137.  The Kentucky Department of Tourism website also offers useful visitor information related to the historic sites of Lincoln and his family.

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace has both been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.

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