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Determining the Facts

Reading 4: Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Becomes Indiana's First National Park

In the late 1950s, Indiana moved to make the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Park a national park. On February 19, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to make the memorial park a national park. With this new designation, the National Park Service took ownership of the site. Nancy Hanks Lincoln Memorial Park became Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Indiana's first authorized unit of the National Park Service.

When the National Park Service took over, they had several goals to improve the site. The first goal was to move the direction of Highway 162. The highway was supposed to run in front of the memorial building. The Park Service had it redirected to pass to the south of the memorial building. Another goal was to build a visitor center. This space would provide site visitors information, orientations, and basic service facilities. Finally, the Park Service wanted a building for a lobby, an exhibit room, and a 100-seat auditorium.

Ultimately, the National Park Service decided to work with the existing design of the site. They focused on improving the available buildings. One of the first projects was to enclose the cloister between the Nancy Hanks Lincoln Hall and the Abraham Lincoln Hall. Building a museum and auditorium came next. Native St. Meinrad sandstone and cherry paneling were used to build these additions. The new visitor center was officially dedicated on August 21, 1966.

When it came to telling Lincoln's story at the site, the Park Service did not have any of the original buildings. The solution was to build the Lincoln Living Historical Farm in 1968. Instead of reconstructing the Lincoln farm, the Park Service recreated a farm from the 1820s. The site did not have enough information about the Lincoln farm to recreate it. Building a farm from the same time period would help visitors understand what life was like for the Lincolns and other Indiana pioneers. An archaeological dig was done to look for the historic farm but nothing was found. Ground clearing began in February 1968. By April, the buildings and fences were standing.

All of the logs for the buildings came from old structures found in Spencer, Indiana 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 construction of the farm was finished, it included a log cabin, log barn with shed, a smokehouse, a corncrib (a building used to dry and store corn), a chicken house, and a workshop. Split rail fences enclosed the farm. Using research about 19th century farm life, park staff was able to provide a living history interpretation of the site.

The completion of the living historical farm was the final piece of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Visitors to the park today have a number of options to learn about Lincoln. They 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 National Memorial is the premier Lincoln site in Indiana and one of the most significant in the country.

Questions for Reading 4

1. When did the site become a part of the national park system? Who made it a national park? How long after the Civil War was the site made a national park? Why do you think that might have been?

2. What kinds of changes did the National Park Service make to the site? Were the earlier features of the site retained or replaced? Why is this important?

3. Is the present day farm original? Is it located on the original site? What is the purpose of the farm? Do you think it fits with the earlier developments?

4. Do you agree with the interpretation and presentation of this important site? What things would you change if you could to make the portrayal of Lincolnís life there better?

Reading 4 was adapted from The Lincoln Notebook, prepared by the staff of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.


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