Deep inside Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, stands a granite tomb built for President Abraham Lincoln. Between 1868 and 1931 the insides and contents of the tomb had constantly changed, but since 1931, when Herbert Hoover rededicated the tomb to the State of Illinois as a historic landmark, the interior of the tomb has stayed the same. By 1966 Lincoln’s Tomb was placed on the historic register of the nation, but none of these prestigious titles is what brings people to the burial site of Abraham Lincoln. No, it’s the myth more than the man that calls people to visit the tomb of the “Great Emancipator.”
Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois.
In the last couple years, Lincoln’s myth has gained, well, even more myth, with the help of movies like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, and one can assure a resurgence in interest in the martyred President with the release of Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, but Lincoln’s accurate biography and his myth both be damned. When you visit Lincoln’s Tomb, like all sites of reverence and/or history, there’s something in between the myth and the facts of a person that can be filled by each individual. For me, walking the hexagon shape of the halls within the tomb are a reminder that every museum, monument and town that bears the name of Lincoln, or celebrates the life of the slain President, elevates the actions of the man and obscures the fact that he was indeed a human being—a man with needs, wants. Continue reading
In downtown Cleveland, surrounded by four right angles of traffic, stands The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, or known locally as Cleveland’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The monument’s most notable recognition would probably come from the opening scenes of “A Christmas Story,” where little Ralphie, his brother Randy, and all their friends press their noses against the display windows of Higbee’s Department Store—in the background stands the monument ignorant of the Christmas season, blackened by years of soot and pollution from the burning furnaces of steel mills circling the city like like stationary iron and chromium buttresses.
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors Monument after a recent cleaning.
Today the monument has been cleaned and invites visitors to look at her insides, walls lined with gray granite and Amherst sandstone where the names of local soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War are carved, with the notable exception of any Black soldiers who served (apparently there are plans to add those missing names to the stone walls as the names are discovered through research), and four interior bronze wall reliefs depicting important moments of the Civil War. Above the walls are the bronze carved images of high ranking officers. The yellow, bronze and red colored walls and their echo gives today’s visitor the feeling that he/she is in the bathroom of train station. Albeit a clean bathroom, but this is a step back in time when the cultural symbols were different. When memorializing and the neutral color of yellow depicted remembrance. Still, around the exterior of the monument all you can smell is urine— you can see the decades of piss stains on the red sandstone. Continue reading