Lincoln Birthplace Memorial

In December 1808, a few months before Lincoln’s birth, his parents and sister moved from nearby Elizabethtown to the Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His father paid $200 for 348 acres of land on the south fork of Nolin Creek. The farm received its name from a spring on the property which emerged from a deep cave, still visible today. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln constructed a one-room log cabin on a knoll near the spring where their son was born two months later. The Lincoln family continued to live on and farm the Sinking Spring property until a land dispute prompted them to move 10 miles northeast to Knob Creek, Kentucky.

Lincoln Farm Association Certificate
Certificate of Honorary Membership in the Lincoln Farm Association

In 1894, New Yorker restaurateur Alfred Dennett purchased Sinking Spring farm. Dennett also bought a log cabin that was thought to be the one in which Abraham Lincoln was born from a local man named Jack A. Davenport. Prior to the Civil War, Davenport procured the cabin from where it resided on the Sinking Spring farm and moved it to his property one mile north. When Dennett purchased the cabin from Davenport, he disassembled it to tour nationally for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair and to other cities and fairs. The dismantled log cabin eventually was placed in storage on Long Island. In 1906, Robert Collier and Richard Lloyd Jones, publishers of Collier’s Weekly, purchased the Sinking Spring Farm at public auction after Dennet’s death. The two men, along with Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain), William Jennings Bryan, Henry Watterson and several others formed the Lincoln Farm Association to preserve Lincoln’s birthplace and establish a memorial to the nation’s 16th President. They found the log cabin in storage and had it shipped to the farm and reassembled on its original location.

Lincoln Pike routes
Map showing location of the Lincoln Birthplace Farm
and proposed routes for the Lincoln Pike

The Lincoln Farm Association raised more than $350,000 from over 100,000 members to create a memorial building at Lincoln’s birthplace which would enshrine the log cabin. Designed by architect John Russell Pope, the neo-classical style building was constructed between 1909 and 1911. It featured 56 terraced steps representing each year of Lincoln’s life and 16 decorative rosettes and windows symbolizing his position as 16th president of the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the building’s cornerstone on February 12, 1909 during the celebration of the Lincoln Centenary. Two years later in November 1911, the granite and marble memorial was dedicated by President William Howard Taft.

The memorial and Sinking Spring Farm were established as a national park in 1916 when the Lincoln Farm Association donated the property to the Federal government. President Woodrow Wilson acknowledged the gift in an acceptance speech on Labor Day, 1916 and dedicated the memorial as “a shrine to democracy”. The memorial and property were transferred to the National Park Service on August 10, 1933. The site was designated a national historical park on August 11, 1939, and was renamed the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site on September 8, 1959.

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Order of Exercises for the Lincoln Centennial Celebration
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Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the dedication of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial