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Location of the Lincoln Memorial

Location of the Lincoln Memorial/tiles/non-collection/c/c_061imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Location of the Lincoln Memorial/tiles/non-collection/c/c_061imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


Against a backdrop of controversy regarding the design and location of the Lincoln Memorial, the Fine Arts Federation of New York, an organization that promoted urban beautification, sent this letter to Congress expressing its support for a Potomac River site for the memorial. Representative John Fitzgerald of New York introduced the petition, and it was referred to the Committee on Buildings and Grounds.

Congress’s quest to build a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln began in 1869. It was reinvigorated in 1902, when a commission was created to improve Washington, D.C.’s, park system as part of the city’s centennial celebration. The debate regarding the location and design of the monument lasted until 1913. Daniel Burnham, Charles McKim, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, leading figures in the respective fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and sculpture, executed a redesign of the city along the lines of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plans. They proposed a site for the Lincoln Memorial along the Potomac River aligned with the Capitol and Washington Monument. Some Members of the House, including Marlin Olmsted of Pennsylvania (no relation to Frederick), advocated for a memorial highway between Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Others, especially Speaker Joseph Cannon, proposed a memorial site between the Capitol and Union Station. In 1911, the House passed S. 9449, authorizing the Lincoln Memorial Commission to finalize a site and design. In 1913, the House accepted the plans of the commission to locate the memorial along the Potomac. Construction was completed in 1922.

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