Lincoln's Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Address:
1500 Monument Avenue
Oak Ridge Cemetery
Springfield, IL 62702

Telephone: 217-782-2717

Visiting Hours:
Interior open every day, 9 AM to 4:45 PM.
Exterior open every day from 7 AM until 5 PM.

No charge for admission; no tickets required.
The Tomb is ADA/handicapped accessible.


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Frequently Asked Questions at Lincoln's Tomb

Categories

  1. Tomb Management
  2. Oak Ridge Cemetery
  3. Burial
  4. Lincoln Family
  5. Tomb Interior
  6. Tomb Exterior
  7. Tomb Construction
  8. Around the Tomb

Tomb Management

Who is in charge of Lincoln's Tomb?

Since 1895, Lincoln's Tomb has been owned and managed by the State of Illinois under the Governor's Office. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is the supervising department. The Public Receiving Vault is also owned by the State since 1946.


How does one apply for a job at the Tomb?

Illinois CMS handles hiring of state employees. Applications for summer seasonal positions are usually posted in spring each year.



Oak Ridge Cemetery

When was Oak Ridge Cemetery established?

The Cemetery was established in 1860.


How large is Oak Ridge Cemetery?

The Cemetery encompasses approximately 300 acres.


Who can be buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery?

Oak Ridge is a public cemetery owned by the City of Springfield and continually accepts new burials. Contact the cemetery office for more information.



Burial

Who is buried in Lincoln's Tomb?

President and Mrs. Lincoln, and three of their four children: Edward Baker, William Wallace, and Thomas. The Lincolns' first son, Robert Todd, is not buried at the Tomb.


Where is Robert Todd Lincoln buried?

At the request of Robert's widow, Mary Harlan, the former Secretary of War and Civil War veteran is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Mrs. Robert Lincoln and their son Abraham Lincoln II are also buried there.


Why is Robert Lincoln not buried in the Tomb?

Though he did express his desire to be buried with his family, Robert's widow decided his burial. She probably wished to have him remembered as a successful and patriotic man in his own right, not forgotten beneath the shadow of his father the president.


Why is President Lincoln buried in Springfield?

Though Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky and also lived in Indiana, he spent the majority of his life in Illinois. His widow Mary made the burial arrangements and insisted upon Oak Ridge Cemetery as a suitable and consecrated resting ground.


Where was President Lincoln buried while the Tomb was being built?

A temporary tomb, located on the hill between the present Tomb and the Public Receiving Vault, held the remains of President Lincoln and his sons Edward Baker and William Wallace from December 1865 until September 1871. At that date, though the Tomb was still incomplete, the crypts within were ready for burial. The temporary tomb was demolished in October.


Has President Lincoln's body ever been stolen from the Tomb?

No. An attempt to steal the President's body in 1876 was stopped by the United States Secret Service. President Lincoln's body has never left the cemetery since his burial on May 4, 1865.


What is the manner of President Lincoln's burial?

The embalmed remains rest in a red cedar coffin, lined with lead and soldered shut. This coffin is in turn enclosed by a pine box. A below ground vault, excavated to a depth of 15 feet below grade, has a four foot thick foundation of concrete. Upon this foundation rests the pine box containing the President's remains. An iron cage 3x10 feet by 3 feet high encloses the pine box. Both box and cage sit 11 feet below grade. Covering and surrounding the cage and box is Portland cement poured up to approximately 3 inches below the finished marble floor, and several feet beyond all four sides of the cage. The large red marble stone bearing the President's name is positioned slightly in front of this mass in order to be perfectly centered in the room.


What is the manner of burial of Mrs. Lincoln and the three children?

The remains of Mrs. Lincoln and children rest in coffins placed in above-ground crypts located approximately 5 feet above the finished marble floor and behind the row of three marble slabs bearing their names. There are four crypts arranged in a single row. The names of Edward Baker and William Wallace are both inscribed on the center slab for symmetry.


Is it possible to access President Lincoln's remains?

No. To do so would require major demolition and excavation of the Tomb.


Is it possible to access the crypts of Mrs. Lincoln and children?

Although these crypts are above ground, they are encased in a steel-reinforced concrete box, never designed to be opened. To do so would require some demolition.


How do we know that President Lincoln is really buried in the Tomb?

Each time that the President's remains were moved, several men opened the coffin for identification, and each one signed a document giving witness thereof. The last time such an identification took place was in September 1901, the final burial of President Lincoln under steel bars and concrete. Twenty-two men present verified the remains, which were still in good condition due to embalming, and those who knew the President in life signed a document.


Who was the last living person to see the face of Abraham Lincoln?

Fleetwood Lindley, former director of Oak Ridge Cemetery, was the last living person to see the face of the President. Mr. Lindley was a 14 year old high school freshman in September 1901 when his father, Joseph Lindley, one of the men called upon to identify the President's remains, summoned him to the Tomb for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Mr. Lindley died in Springfield in 1963.


Why is President Lincoln buried underground and away from his family?

Until 1876, the President's coffin was in a wall crypt, or sometimes in a white marble sarcophagus, always near his family. That year, however, there was an unsuccessful attempt to steal the President's remains. Fearing a repeated attempt, the President's coffin was ultimately buried beneath concrete in 1887, and was buried again for the final time in 1901.


Will President Lincoln's remains ever be excavated?

It is unlikely that the President's remains will ever be disturbed during the lifetime of any person now reading this document. However, considering that American and British archaeologists have excavated hundreds of tombs of Ancient Egypt and other ancient civilizations, it is probable that archaeologists of the future will one day excavate Lincoln's Tomb.


Was President Lincoln buried with his stove pipe hat?

No, because the hat would not fit in the coffin. The remains are dressed in a suit, with a flag draped over the hands.



Lincoln Family

Are there any descendants of President Lincoln still living?

There are no more direct descendants of the President still living. The last descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died in 1985. He had no heirs. There are still relatives of Mary Lincoln and the Lincoln family living, however.


Did Mrs. Lincoln often visit the Tomb?

A newspaper report states that Mrs. Lincoln and son Robert visited the cemetery in December 1865. Though she insisted upon her husband's burial in Oak Ridge Cemetery, it is unknown whether Mrs. Lincoln ever visited the Tomb. She died and was buried in the Tomb in 1882.


What were the ages and causes of death for the Lincoln family members?

President Lincoln died at age 56 of a gunshot wound to the head; Mary Lincoln, 63, complications from apoplexy; Robert Todd, 82, old age; Thomas, 18, pleurisy; William Wallace, 11, typhoid fever; Edward Baker, 3, tuberculosis.



Tomb Interior

Inside, what is at the center of the Tomb?

The massive stone foundation of the obelisk, followed by the circular foundations of the four military statues dominates the majority of the center space.


Does the Tomb have a basement or lower level?

No. Excepting the upper terrace, the level at which visitors enter is the only level to the Tomb.


Is the Tomb handicapped accessible?

Yes. Inside, the Tomb is built on one level with no stairs or ramps.


Is the Tomb air-conditioned?

Yes, the Tomb has had air-conditioning since 1954.


What is the ceiling of the rotunda made of?

The ceiling of the rotunda is palladium leaf on a plaster backing. Palladium was chosen over silver because it will not tarnish. The ceiling was re-gilded in early 2014.


What is the ceiling of the burial chamber made of?

The burial chamber ceiling is gold leaf. It was last re-gilded in early 2014.


How much gold is on the ceiling of the burial chamber?

The ceiling, roughly 850 square feet, has approximately 4.5 ounces of gold leaf applied to it.


What are the flags in the burial chamber?

There are nine flags in the burial chamber. Facing north, at left is the American flag. To the right are the four flags of the states where President Lincoln's ancestors once lived: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The next three flags at right are the states where President Lincoln once lived: Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. The blue flag at right is the Presidential Flag.


What is the significance of the gold laurel wreaths in the burial chamber?

The laurel wreath is an ancient Roman symbol of victory. A wreath caps each of the eight French Black marble pilasters (four others are nearly hidden on the south wall) designed to visually separate the nine flags.


What is the significance of the phrase "Now he belongs to the ages"?

According to John Hay who was present at the time, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton uttered words to this effect at President Lincoln's deathbed in the Petersen House, located across the street from Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Hay rewrote Stanton's original phrase, "He belongs to the ages now," to this more poetic version.


How much does President Lincoln's cenotaph weigh?

The three blocks of highly polished Red Ark Fossil marble altogether weigh about two tons, and "the setting of these pieces of marble was indeed a very delicate operation which was carried out without injury to any of the mouldings or carving."


What is the significance of the gold stars inside the Tomb?

In each of the four corners there are 12 gold stars on the walls, near the ceiling. There are 48 in total, the number of states in the Union when the Tomb interior was remodeled in 1930.


Why was the year changed on Robert Lincoln's memorial marker?

Though Robert Lincoln is not buried at the Tomb, his memorial marker is on the south wall just outside the bronze gates of the Burial Chamber. Due to a mistake, his date of birth was originally carved as 1844. In order to correct this mistake, the numeral 4 was changed to a 3 to indicate his correct year of birth, 1843. Robert Lincoln died in 1926 at age 82.


How was the interior lit before electricity?

Prior to the 1930 remodeling, the rotunda had two skylights and six small windows on the south wall. The burial chamber at back was illuminated by sunlight admitted through the gated doorway as well as six small windows on the north wall. Before 1930 there were no hallways, only these two separate rooms. In the 1901 reconstruction, electric lights were added to both rooms and to the interior of the obelisk.


Why is the text of Lincoln's Farewell Address different?

At the northeast corner of the Tomb is a bronze plaque bearing Lincoln's Farewell Address to the People of Springfield. The text for this version "was furnished by Judge Horner and is claimed to be as taken down by newspaper men present at the time."



Tomb Exterior

Who designed Lincoln's Tomb?

Sculptor Larkin G. Mead, Jr., originally of Brattleboro, VT, designed the Tomb while living in Florence, Italy in 1865. He sculpted the four heroic battle scenes as well as the statue of Lincoln the Emancipator and the Coat of Arms. Though the exterior of the Tomb has been retained largely unchanged over the decades, during 1929-1931 C. Herrick Hammond, F.A.I.A., Supervising Architect for the State of Illinois, and Joseph F. Booton, A.I.A., Chief Designer redesigned the interior.


What is the abbreviation ON on the exterior of the Tomb?

ON was an old-fashioned and non-standard postal abbreviation for the State of Oregon. According to the 1874 United States Official Postal Guide, the preferred abbreviation was Oreg.


Why are the names or abbreviations of states on the Tomb?

All 50 states are represented because the Tomb is a national monument.


What is the small black thing at the top of the obelisk?

A lightning rod


How tall is the obelisk?

Approximately 117 feet from grade


Is it possible to climb to the top of the obelisk?

No. Before the 1930 remodeling there was a door at terrace level behind which was a spiral staircase leading up to an observation deck. Three round windows on the four sides of the obelisk allowed visitors to gaze over the Cemetery and city of Springfield. In order to save cost, the staircase was eliminated in the 1930 Tomb remodeling. The doorway was permanently sealed in 1936 by the Roman Stone, and the bronze door placed in storage.



Tomb Construction

How long did it take to construct the Tomb?

Construction began in September 1869 and lasted until fall 1871. While the structure was completed at that date, not all of the bronze military statues had been cast and installed. The Tomb was dedicated on October 15, 1874 with the unveiling of Larkin G. Mead's statue of Lincoln the Emancipator, and the Coat of Arms. The military statues were installed from 1877 to 1883.


Who paid for the original construction of Lincoln's Tomb?

While later reconstructions of the Tomb were financed entirely by the State of Illinois, the original construction of the mid- to late-1800s was managed by a private organization known as the National Lincoln Monument Association. The Association solicited donations from soldiers and officers, school children, religious congregations, the States, and all patriotic citizens. The State of Illinois donated $82,000, the largest single amount. The States of New York, Missouri, Nevada, and Nebraska each donated $10,000, $1,000, $500, and $500, respectively. The Federal Government, despite immense war debt, donated 50,000 pounds of cannon to be melted down for the bronze statuary. The total cost of the Tomb as of May 1, 1889 was $230,000.


Was the Lincoln Tomb remodeling of 1930-31 a WPA project?

No, because the Works Progress Administration was not established until 1935, four years after completion of the Tomb remodeling.


What materials is the Tomb made of?

Exterior facing stone is Quincy granite. All load-bearing walls, including the obelisk, are hard burned brick laid in cement mortar; non-bearing typically of hollow clay tile. The foundation is concrete; ceilings and roofs are reinforced slabs. Finished floors and walls are marble. Finished ceilings are typically plaster on metal lath with plaster cornices. All doors, trim, grilles, and other hardware are bronze.



Around the Tomb

How many people visit the Tomb each year?

With over 300,000 annual visitors, Lincoln's Tomb is the most popular state historic site in Springfield.


What is the Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault?

The Vault, located at the base of a hill north of the Tomb, was built in 1864 and owned by the Cemetery until 1946. Featuring several crypts, it was used as a temporary holding place, particularly during the winters, until a proper grave could be dug for the deceased. Only two persons were buried within before President Lincoln's funeral, after which the vault was never again used. Since 1946 the Public Receiving Vault is owned by the State of Illinois as part of Lincoln's Tomb.


What is the significance of the bell tower near the Public Receiving Vault?

The bell tower, built in 1900, is an accessory to a chapel that was removed in 1949. Embedded in the west side of the tower is a massive stone slab. This slab once supported the coffin of President Lincoln while it rested temporarily in the Public Receiving Vault.


Where was the temporary tomb located?

The temporary tomb was demolished after September 1871. It was located halfway up the hill between the present Tomb and the Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault. An upright granite marker indicates the temporary tomb's former location. As one descends the stairway to the Public Receiving Vault, this marker is located on the right.


What is the large stone building near the Tomb?

The Tomb Custodian's Residence, located between the parking lot and the Tomb, was the home of the Tomb Custodian from 1896-1975. Today it is used as an office.


How many other presidents are buried in a tomb?

Of the United States Presidents now deceased, six others besides President Lincoln are buried in a tomb, these being Presidents Garfield, Grant, Harding, Harrison, McKinley, and Monroe.


Is Lincoln's Tomb the largest of any president?

Yes, Lincoln's Tomb is one of the largest presidential tombs.


 

Text written by David Finnigan with valuable assistance from Candy Knox, Pam VanAlstine, and Mikle Siere.
Copyright © 2015. The text of this web site may be reproduced for educational purposes.