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Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Becomes Indiana's First National Park
By the late 1950’s, there was talk of transferring the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Park to the federal government and making a national park of it. In 1959, Senator Vance Hartke, of Evansville, introduced a bill into the Congress that authorized the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a feasibility study. Although the study did not recommend against it, it did not endorse the idea either. In the meantime, though, local businessman William Koch, became convinced that it was a good idea and worked with Congressman Winfield K. Denton to introduce legislation proposing the establishment of an NPS unit at Lincoln City. When the state endorsed the proposal and offered to donate 200 acres containing the cabin site, the gravesite, and the memorial building, the legislation passed easily. President John F. Kennedy signed the act authorizing the establishment of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial on February 19, 1962. In a ceremony in front of the memorial building, the transfer was formally made and Indiana’s first authorized unit of the National Park System was dedicated.
Following the transfer of the park, the NPS undertook several
Another major project was the addition of offices and a museum to the memorial building. The NPS had identified the need for more space soon after taking over operation of the park. At first, it was proposed that a separate building be built near the gravesite but Superintendent Robert Burns aggressively opposed the proposal and maintained that the integrity of the gravesite must be preserved. Conceding his point, NPS officials dropped the idea of a separate building and decided to adapt the existing memorial building to meet its needs. In order to compliment the original structure and to leave its basic appearance unchanged, the addition was designed to enclose
In addition to the work on the visitor center, the NPS also build
A major addition to Lincoln Boyhood came about in 1968 when the Lincoln Living Historical Farm was created. Because there was not enough documentation to accurately reconstruct the Lincoln farm, it was decided to re-create a farm that was representative of the
All of the logs for the buildings came from old structures found in Spencer and surrounding counties. It generally took one day to knock down the old building, another day to move it, and approximately two weeks to rebuild it on site. When completed, the complex included a hewn log cabin, hewn log barn with shed, a smokehouse, a corncrib, a chicken house and a workshop, all enclosed by split rail fences. Research about 19th century farm life enabled park staff to begin conducting living history interpretation on the site.
With the completion of the living historical farm, development of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was complete. Visitors to the park today can tour the museum and memorial halls, watch the movie in the park auditorium, observe pioneer skills demonstrations at the farm, walk the trail to the gravesite and the historic Trail of Twelve Stones, and participate in a variety of ranger-led interpretive programs. Lincoln Boyhood is the premier Lincoln site in Indiana and one of the most significant in the country. It is a fitting tribute to the boy who grew up here to become the man that meant so much to this country. The National Park Service is proud to be entrusted with its care and is dedicated to fulfilling the long-standing tradition of preservation that began with those first efforts to mark the gravesite 130 years ago.
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