The Lincoln Memorial opened to the public in 1922 as the monumental western terminus of the National Mall. The Greek temple-style structure, built of Colorado marble, was designed by architect Henry Bacon to house Daniel Chester French’s massive seated sculpture of Lincoln, which has become a national icon. The Memorial is constructed on filled land, which presented a challenge to provide adequate support for its massive weight and elevate it to its current height. The solution was the installation of deep supporting piers and the creation of a huge undercroft not visible to the public. The height of the undercroft is actually greater than that of the temple structure above it.
The National Park Service (NPS) estimates that some 8 million people visit the Memorial annually. Today, most visitors climb the monumental stairs to the Chamber Level with its sculpture, but for those who cannot make the climb, there is a single elevator (capacity 12) located at an entry at the base of the south side of the structure. Also available at this location are restroom facilities adjacent to a small exhibition area. There is a small book store with a capacity for about half-a-dozen visitors located on the Chamber Level. The NPS has long considered these facilities inadequate to serve the enormous crowds that now visit the Memorial.
The year 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the Memorial’s opening. During the lead-up to that celebration the NPS proposed to improve the accessibility to the Memorial, the overall interpretative and educational experience, and the efficiency of site operations. The enhancements include more restrooms, more interpretative space, a larger bookstore, a second elevator, and an additional public entry to serve visitors better and facilitate crowd management. Multiple picture windows will permit visitors to look into the undercroft and get a better sense of how the Memorial was constructed. The C100’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee has monitored and commented on these improvements, which are now in progress and are expected to be completed by 2022.
- C100 Letter Lincoln Memorial Rehabilitation Environmental Assessment
- February 19, 2018, Stephen A. Hansen
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City (C100) strongly supports Alternative B of the NPS Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Lincoln Memorial Rehabilitation. We commend the NPS for its comprehensive study and the thorough presentation of findings.
- C100 Preliminary Comments Lincoln Memorial Rehabilitation For NEPA And Section 106 Of The NPHA
- June 26, 2017, Stephen A. Hansen
We understand and support the purpose of this renovation—to rehabilitate the Lincoln Memorial and its surrounding landscape for its centennial in 2022. We further believe that making use of a portion of the existing undercroft space, if that is possible, will in the end achieve your dual goal of retaining the historic integrity of the memorial and ensuring the solemnity of its space as stated in the Naitonal Park Services' June 7th letter.