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Historic Sites and Buildings

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

Larue County, just off US 31E-Ky. 61, about 3 miles south of Hodgenville.

This national historic site commemorates the humble beginnings of Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a crude log cabin on the Kentucky frontier. Preserved are most of the farmland that his father owned at the time of his birth; the traditional birthplace cabin; Sinking Spring, where the Lincolns obtained their water; and an ancient oak tree that was then a boundary landmark.

The Lincoln family moved westward from Virginia to Kentucky at the end of the War for Independence. About 1800 Thomas, Abraham's father, settled in Elizabethtown, where he pursued a living as a carpenter. In 1806 he married Nancy Hanks. Two years later, they purchased a 300-acre tract on the south fork of Nolin Creek, about 14 miles south of Elizabethtown and a few miles south of Hodgen's Mill, the site of present Hodgenville. Not long afterward, with their first child, a daughter named Sarah, they moved into a small, one-room log cabin on a section of the property near Sinking Spring. In that abode, which Thomas may have built, on February 12, 1809, Abraham was born. The Lincolns lived on the farm for 2 more years. Then, as a result of a land-title dispute, they moved to a new location, on Knob Creek about 6 miles northeast of Hodgenville. In later years, Abraham stated that this was the first home he could recall.

Memorial Building
Memorial Building, which houses the traditional Lincoln Birthplace cabin. (National Park Service, Allan Rinehart.)

In 1894 Alfred W. Dennett of New York, a restaurateur and philanthropist, purchased 110 acres of the property where Thomas Lincoln's farm once stood and shortly thereafter began to create a park known as "Lincoln Spring Farm" and "Lincoln Birthplace." In 1895 Dennett acquired an aging log cabin standing on nearby property and reerected it near Sinking Spring, on the approximate location of Thomas' cabin. According to Dennett and local opinion, the cabin incorporated some of the same logs that had been used in the Lincoln cabin, though the latter apparently had been moved and rebuilt after the departure of the Lincolns.

Apparently Dennett's plans to create a commercially successful park failed, for in 1897 he dismantled the cabin and transported it to Nashville, where it was reassembled and displayed as part of the Nashville centennial celebration. He then placed the logs in storage in New York City until 1901, the year they were exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Subsequently, some of the logs were lost while being transported; the remainder lay untouched for several years in the basement of an old mansion on Long Island. During that time, Dennett lost title to them.

Traditional Lincoln Birthplace cabin
Traditional Lincoln Birthplace cabin. (National Park Service, Boucher, 1959.)

In 1906 the Lincoln Farm Association, incorporated 2 years earlier, acquired both the birthplace site and the logs. The association transported the latter to Louisville, where they were reassembled and exhibited in Central Park and then stored pending construction of a memorial shelter at the birthplace site. In a ceremony on February 12, 1909, on the centennial of Lincoln's birth. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the shelter. Two years later, the association reassembled the birthplace in the completed building, a huge Greek Revival structure of Connecticut pink granite and Tennessee marble, designed by John R. Pope and erected with funds raised by popular subscription. President Taft took part in the dedication ceremony, held on November 9 of that year.

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Administrative History

In 1916 Congress authorized Federal ownership of the birthplace site and placed it under the administration of the War Department. The National Park Service acquired it in 1933. Today, the national historic site, comprising 116-1/2 acres of land, includes about 100 acres of the original Lincoln farm. The main feature is the memorial building, which houses the traditional birthplace cabin. Also of interest is nearby Sinking Spring, source of water for the Lincoln family, and the ancient oak tree that marks the boundary of the property. A visitor center houses exhibits on Lincoln and pioneer life and offers an audiovisual program.

Logs of the Lincoln Birthplace
Logs of the Lincoln Birthplace being loaded at College Point, New York, in 1906 for shipment to Kentucky. Five years later, after exhibition in Louisville, they were reassembled in the Memorial Building at the future Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. (Library of Congress, J. F. Wieners, 1906.)
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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004