Log Home News: Lincoln’s Log Cabin Legacy
Memorial May Not Be the Real Thing, But it Still Inspires Kentuckians
LaRue County, KY:Compared to today’s McMansions, Abraham Lincoln’s first digs weren’t anything to worry the Joneses.
Still, his tiny, dirt floor cabin has become an icon of his bicentennial birthday celebration. It’s a case of less is more.
The cabin says something about opportunity in this country that a man with such a humble start could one day move into the White House, said Sandy Brue, chief of interpretation and resource management at the birthplace park.
The cabin image during the next few years will be replicated not only throughout the state, but also the nation.
For instance, in 2009 it will appear on the tail side of pennies. And it’s the dominant feature of Kentucky’s bicentennial logo, which will show up on specialty license plates and on new Lincoln Heritage Trail signs.
The cabin also has been burned into the consciousnesses of American children via Lincoln Logs for almost a century.
Besides serving as a traditional toy and symbol of the American Dream, the cabin could help Kentucky establish its Lincoln legacy that is, let people know he was born here and not in Illinois.
The home, after all, is the most recognizable image from the years he lived in the state, especially since no picture of him as a boy exists.
His real birthplace cabin, however, apparently doesn’t exist anymore. The one enclosed by the pink granite memorial building with Greek columns at his birthplace near Hodgenville is a replica.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to the one where Abe was born Feb. 12, 1809. By roughly his 50th birthday, it either had been moved to an adjacent farm or had “fallen into ruin,” wrote Dwight T. Pitcaithley, former chief historian for the National Park Service.
The birthplace park cabin at one time accepted as the real one was installed about the time of Lincoln’s centennial birthday. Tests of the logs have since proven it isn’t the building in which he was born.
On rare occasions, park guests voice disappointment because of this, Brue said. Nevertheless, when visitors are asked whether preservation work should be performed on either the cabin or the memorial building, the answer always is the cabin, she said.
This site will draw worldwide attention on Feb. 12, as President Bush is expected to speak at the foot of the memorial building in a ceremony to kick off a two-year celebration of the bicentennial.
Worrying about whether the cabin inside actually kept rain off baby Abe misses the point. The real value isn’t in the logs themselves. It’s what they symbolize.
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John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746, or firstname.lastname@example.org