Celebrating Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky on Feb. 12, 1809, and February 2008, marks a two-year-long celebration of the bicentennial of his birth. As the nation celebrates, hundreds of programs and activities relating to Lincoln’s life and legacy will be conducted across America.

Official programs and exhibits began in Kentucky and will continue through places he lived in Indiana, Illinois and Washington, D.C. In addition, many communities that he visited will also host special Lincoln events in 2008 and in 2009.

Official plans began in 2000 when the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Act was passed by Congress. Congress then appointed its 15 members. The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) commemorates the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, emphasizing the contributions of his thoughts, ideals and his serving as a catalyst for strengthening freedom, democracy and equal opportunity for all, according to the ALBC mission statement.

This special celebration year provides the perfect time to visit many of the sites in Lincoln’s life in order to learn more about our nation’s 16th president.

At the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Ky., visitors can see an early 19th century Kentucky cabin similar to the one in which Lincoln was born. It is preserved in a granite and marble memorial building that has 56 steps, one for each year of Lincoln’s life. This Birthplace Unit is part of the 110 acre Thomas Lincoln farm, known as Sinking Springs. The Lincoln family lived here until Abraham was 2? years old, before moving 10 miles to Knob Creek. At the site’s Boyhood Home Unit is a reproduction cabin similar to where young Lincoln lived until he was almost 8 years old and the family moved to Indiana.

The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Ind., recreates the farm life the Lincolns experienced from 1816 until Lincoln left for Illinois in 1830. Also at this site is the grave of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. She died in 1818 at age 34 after eating a poisonous white snakeroot plant.

Boyhood Home KYbw AT 2-13.jpgSpringfield became the Illinois state capital in 1837 with Lincoln’s help. The 700-acre New Salem State Historic Site, 25 miles from Springfield, has costumed interpreters in the 23 buildings at the log village. They help visitors learn about frontier life in the 1830s, which is when Lincoln lived here for six years.

The world class Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum opened in downtown Springfield in 2005 at a cost of $115 million. Two multiplex theaters, which show special effects presentations, are truly the highlights of the museum. “Ghosts of the Library” uses high-tech special effects to create misty, ghost-like visions of historical figures that share the stage with an actor as the audience becomes part of a detective’s journey into the past.

Presented on multiple layer screens of digital projection that wrap around the audience, “Lincoln’s Eyes” dazzles with special effects as an artist commissioned to create a portrait of Lincoln struggles to understand all the things he sees in Lincoln’s eyes — including sorrow, resolve, hope, vision, and forgiveness.Family Cabin IN AT 2-13.jpg (Note: People adversely affected by strobe lights should skip this one.)

The Lincoln Boyood National Memorial in Indiana features this log cabin replica of the house where Lincoln spend his boyhood, and where his mother passed away.

Either before or after visiting the theaters, begin your self-guided tour with Journey One, which portrays Lincoln’s childhood up to his election as 16th president. Walk through the replica log cabin that was Lincoln’s boyhood home in Indiana. Reflect on the effects of slavery as you watch black families literally being torn apart at a New Orleans slave auction and feel the cold metal of a real slave shackle. With the help of lifelike figures, listen to the fiery Lincoln-Douglas debates and witness Lincoln’s departure for Washington in February, 1861.

ourney Two begins in a towering reproduction of the White House as the Lincolns would have known it. On the porch you’ll find abolitionist Sojourner Truth on one side with Generals Grant and McClellan on the other.

Enter to see slave Elizabeth Keckway fitting Mary Lincoln for a gown in a room bordered with dresses of her social rivals. A special effects corridor named “The Emancipation Proclamation” surrounds you with images of angry people telling Lincoln how to handle the slavery issue.

Reenactors TN AT 2-13.jpgRead harsh political cartoons in the twisted hallway known as the “Whispering Gallery” as you hear insults hurled at the Lincolns. Pause to hear party music in the background as the Lincolns sneak upstairs from a White House party to sit at the deathbed of their son, Willie, then listen to the raindrops as they appear to trickle down Mary Lincoln’s face after his death.

Re-enactors bring the time of Lincoln back to life at the Lincoln Birthplace Historic Site in Hodgenville, Ky.

Listen carefully in the White House kitchen and you’ll hear black servants gossiping about the possibility of emancipation. Take four minutes to watch both the strategic war and the human war come alive at the Civil War map. Designed with the help of historians and high school teachers, this electronic marvel shows one week of the war in one second. It’s sobering to watch the odometer of death climb as the war progresses.

A special exhibit titled “Packaging Presidents: Two Centuries of Campaigns and Candidates,” runs until Nov. 9.

Within walking distance of this museum explore the Old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech. See the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices where the future president practiced law from 1834 to 1852.

The only home Lincoln ever owned is now in a four-block area that includes exhibits in several restored buildings. This was the preacher’s home when Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1842. Lincoln liked the home so much that he bought it two years later for $1,500. In 1856 the full second story was added at a cost of $1,300. The Lincolns had one infant son, Robert, when they moved in, and three more sons – Edward, William and Thomas – were born while they lived here. Edward also died here. The family lived here from May 1844 until they moved to the White House in February 1861.

Opened in 1977, the Mary Todd Lincoln Home in Lexington, Ky., is the first historic site restored in honor of a First Lady. The childhood home of Abraham Lincoln’s wife is a restored 1803 Georgian style home with period furnishings. Of special interest is her Meissen collection and personal Lincoln family memorabilia.

Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. is the site of Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the president was carried across the street to the Petersen Home where he died the next morning. Both the theatre and the home are now known as the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site. In May 2007 the theatre closed for an 18-month restoration project.

For more information, go online to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Events, at www.lincolnbicentennial.gov, or to www.abrahamlincoln200.org.

For Kentucky Lincoln sites, go to www.kentuckytourism.com, and for Indiana Lincoln sites, go to www.legendaryplaces.org.

For Illinois Lincoln sites, the url address is www.visit-springfieldillinois.com, and the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is www.fordstheatre.org.