In the years following Abraham Lincoln's death, scholars, veterans, and others interested in his life came to see his boyhood home. With the coming of the railroad in 1877 and the establishment of the town of Lincoln City, interest in the Indiana Lincoln story increased and many more visitors began to come.
The first successful efforts toward the development of a Memorial centered on the desire to appropriately mark the grave of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. In 1879, the Studebaker family of South Bend, Indiana, paid to have a permanent marker placed at the gravesite. In 1917, Spencer County placed a monument at the site of the Lincoln cabin.
In 1926, the area was transferred to the Indiana Department of Conservation and the first consistent development of the site began. With the assistance of the Indiana Lincoln Union, the state constructed the Memorial Building, acquired the homesite and a portion of the Lincoln farm, built trails, landscaped the Memorial grounds, and placed the bronze casting at the cabin site.
After nearly 40 years of developing and administering the site, the state of Indiana agreed to donate the park to the federal government for the creation of a National Park site. Legislation was passed by the Congress and on August 15, 1963, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was officially established.
The Master Plan for the development of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial called for the early construction of a visitor center facility to serve as an information and orientation center and to provide the basic service facilities visitors require. The Master Plan specified a building that would provide a lobby, restrooms, an exhibit room and a 100-seat auditorium.
After much careful consideration, NPS designers decided against constructing a separate building. Instead, they prepared plans for consolidating the new facilities with those the Memorial Building built by the people of Indiana. They also determined to retain the basic appearance and design of the original building and to employ materials and workmanship that would complement the structure.
The result of these efforts is the existing building. The open cloister between the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall and the Abraham Lincoln Hall was enclosed to create this hallway. The museum and the auditorium are part of an addition to the building. To retain as much of the original character of the Memorial Building, native St. Meinrad sandstone was chosen for the exterior finish of the new structure. Top quality cherry paneling was selected for the interior walls of the lobby. On August 21, 1966, the new visitor center of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was officially dedicated.
The original Memorial Building is a legacy of Indiana's past effort to honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln and his mother. The Memorial Visitor Center, as it exists today, represents a continuation of that effort in the present. With the continued support of you, the visitor, the National Park Service will successfully carry that effort into the future.