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Secrets of the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo © Aurelien Guichard, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Many myths surround the Lincoln Memorial. Some say Abraham Lincoln is buried under the monument or entombed inside it, but this is false (Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois, which was his hometown). Others think the 57 steps leading up to the statue chamber represent Lincoln’s age when he died, but in reality, he was only 56.

One question that is repeatedly asked throughout the local community, is what, if anything, lies underneath the memorial? Given that the structure was built on tidal marsh from the Potomac River that was once actually under water, it might make sense that nothing could be under it, but the rumor that something exists there is actually true.

Underneath the Lincoln Memorial is a large cavernous area with dirt floors and concrete walls. Hanging from the ceiling beneath where Lincoln sits are hundreds of stalactite formations. The stalactites are long, slender, and pale in color, and they are growing in this artificial cave as the result of water slowly dripping through the monument which started when it was built.

Other interesting features in the underbelly of the monument are cartoon drawings that were sketched on several support columns by the workers who built the monument. One of the drawings depicts characters from the old Mutt and Jeff cartoon, which started running in 1907 and was the first daily newspaper comic strip.

Tours of the cavernous area ceased after 9/11, but this author can vouch for its existence, since in the 1970s and ’80s, local children were treated to a tour on elementary school field trips.

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