The Lincoln Tomb, in Springfield, Illinois, had the unique situation for a tomb of being immediately popular. This was not without problem, on an infrastructure level and on a safety level (two robbers attempted, and luckily failed, to steal Lincoln’s body for ransom in 1876). As a result, the site of the Lincoln Tomb is much more than just a tomb: it features the cluster of buildings and amenities necessary for any site important on a national scale. At the Lincoln Tomb you won’t find just a memorial, you will also find a parking lot, restrooms, and, yes, a custodian’s residence and barn. All of this in the middle Springfield’s otherwise quiet and unassuming Oak Ridge Cemetery.
While dwarfed by Lincoln’s memorial, the small, castle-like custodian’s residence none-the-less draws the eye and captures the imagination. It was built in 1895, shortly after the State of Illinois accepted ownership of the Lincoln Tomb (30 years after Lincoln’s death). For 75 years, the building served as a residence for those in charge of the tomb and grounds. The governor when it was built, Governor John P. Altgeld, insisted the Gothic architectural style be used for all new state government buildings. Culver Stone Company, of Springfield, built both the original building and an addition (including the porch) several years later.
A stone barn and stone restrooms, clearly from different eras but built with a sense of place, sit across the parking lot from the custodian’s residence. Today, the residence serves as onsite offices. The memorial may be the reason to visit Lincoln’s Tomb, but it’s the surrounding buildings that tell something of the tomb’s own history over the years.
Sources and Further Reading:
Much of the information I was able to glean from signage onsite. As 99% Invisible’s Roman Mars says: Always Read the Plaque!
Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site (official website)
Living in the Land of Lincoln means I’ve written about a number of Lincoln sites! Interested? Check them out: