The inside of the Lincoln Memorial is separated into three rooms (north, south, and central). The rooms are separated by two rows of four Ionic columns. In the north and south side rooms, carved inscriptions of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address may be found. On the west wall in the central room are portraits of other presidents.
The sides of the Lincoln Memorial are covered with large panels of marble, which were originally part of a building that now houses a museum of American history. The panels were sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward and Henry Bacon. They depict events from American history: the Boston Massacre, the Louisiana Purchase, George Washington crossing the Delaware River, the Battle of Yorktown, and so on.
In addition to the panels on the sides of the memorial, there are eight other panels carved into the walls of the Lincoln Memorial. These panels tell stories from American history, and some of them are quite famous: the Emancipation Proclamation, the Indian Removal Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and so on.
Each panel was carved out of a single block of stone by an artist working under the direction of Lewis Milestone, who also designed many of the memorial's sculptures. After each panel was complete, it was carefully attached to the wall using metal pins and concrete.
You can reach all parts of the Lincoln Memorial from its entrance on the National Mall.
Look up at these 50-foot-tall columns. Wrap your arms around the bases' five-foot-six-inch diameters. Feel how solid they are.
The walls of the memorial are made of limestone from Mount Rushmore National Monument. It took more than 7 million work hours to carve those faces!
Lincoln's face is the only one that isn't carved from stone. Instead, it's painted by artist John Quincy Adams Ward. He also painted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.
In the center room of the Lincoln Memorial is a large flat rock called the "melting pot" or "fountain." It represents the melting pot that America is supposed to be. Water flows down the front side of the rock into a bowl below where it can be drained for cleaning. On the back side of the rock is an indentation which was once filled with water. It is here that people would have been baptized as Christians before entering America through its port city of New York.
Look closely at the fountain and you'll see small pieces of colored glass embedded in the wet sand below. These are called "luminarias" and they were added after 9/11 when everyone needed to feel better about what had happened.
The Lincoln Memorial's interior is separated into three rooms. The center room houses the president's monument, while the two flanking chambers honor two Lincoln speeches that highlighted Lincoln's character and hailed his achievements throughout his presidency. The memorial was designed by American artist James Earle Fraser and constructed at a cost of $1.5 million (equivalent to $20 million in 2017). It opened on February 21, 1922.
Lincoln's second inaugural address was given on March 4, 1865. The ceremony was held at what is now known as the National Mall, which was then a public park. Lincoln's speech was an emotional appeal for unity following the Civil War. He urged those who continued to fight each other to find a way to live together in peace and prosperity.
Lincoln's farewell address was delivered at what is now called Soldiers' Memorial Hall in Washington, D.C. on April 11, 1861. The address was written four months after the beginning of the Civil War and just seven days before Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In the speech, he warned that if America did not come together and resolve its differences, it would be destroyed by civil war.
The carved inscriptions of Lincoln's second inauguration speech and his Gettysburg Address may be found in the north and south chambers. The words of Lincoln's inaugural address are carved in four lines over three panels. The first panel is above the entrance to the north chamber; the second panel is above the entrance to the south chamber; and the third panel is above the entrance to the anteroom which connects the two main rooms of the memorial.
Lincoln's second inaugural address is carved in four lines across a single panel located above the entrance to the south room. The Gettysburg Address is carved in three lines across two panels located above the entrances to the east and west walls. These carvings were added to the memorial in 1926 by Henry Bacon.
Lincoln's second inaugural address was not his first political speech. He had delivered a much shorter address at his nomination ceremony in 1861. However, this later speech covered a broader range of issues including slavery, constitutional government, and military victory. It is estimated that it took Lincoln ten hours over two days to deliver this speech.
The Lincoln Memorial has three internal chambers that are similar to the Opisthodomos, Adyton, Naos, and Pronaos chambers found in Ancient Greek temples. Like the god sculptures in Greek temples, the Lincoln Memorial's center chamber (Nps.gov, Lincoln Memorial Design and Symbolism), which measures about 36 feet wide by 12 feet high, houses a large statue of Abraham Lincoln. The memorial was designed by Chicago architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the United States Capitol.
Other similarities include the use of Doric order columns with Ionic capitals and the placement of both figures and text within their respective chambers. However, while the Greeks used different materials for their temple architecture (for example, marble for statues and granite for pillars), the Lincoln Memorial features only white stone for its walls and statutes.
In addition, the Lincoln Memorial lacks the sacredness associated with Greek temples because it was built as a tribute to Lincoln rather than as an expression of religious worship. However, even though it is not considered sacred, many people do view the structure as representative of America's commitment to freedom and democracy.
Textual evidence for this interpretation of the Lincoln Memorial can be found in the words chosen by Congress to label each of its rooms. The first committee to recommend these names was called the Senate Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds and included several senators who were familiar with Greek and Roman buildings.
36 fluted Doric columns surround the memorial, one for each of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's death. When you climb up the steps, you'll notice two more columns at the entryway behind the colonnade. These are known as the "shadow" columns because they reflect what's inside the memorial.
There are actually 373 steps to the top of the memorial, but only about 250 of them are visible from the bottom of the monument. The rest are inside the crypt where Lincoln is buried. His grave is a simple stone box with an epitaph written by President Abraham Lincoln himself.
Lincoln's tomb is one of the most visited sites in Washington, D.C. On any given day, hundreds of people come to see it. Many of these people were also unable to attend one of the many services held in Lincoln's honor over the years. Instead, they made their way to the memorial where they could read about his life for themselves.
Lincoln's memory is honored every year on January 1st during National Memory Day. It is recommended that you visit Lincoln's Memorial before then or even better, after its closing on August 25th. The last admission is at 5:30 p.m., so you have plenty of time before sunset.