Visiting Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12th, 1809 on a farm outside present day Hodgenville, Kentucky. The farm, owned by Abraham’s father Thomas and mother Nancy Hanks, was called Sinking Spring Farm after the spring that supplied water to the farm. The Lincolns moved about 10 miles northeast to another farm, called Knob Creek Farm, in 1811. The family moved out of Kentucky to Indiana in 1816. Today, the Sinking Spring and Knob Creek farms are units of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.
Publisher Robert Collier bought the Sinking Spring Farm in 1905 and along with some other heavyweights of the time including author Mark Twain and politician William Jennings Bryan, formed an organization called the Lincoln Farm Association to preserve the site and establish a memorial to the 16th president. The group raised money from people around the country for the memorial, and in 1809, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the memorial building. Two years later, President William Howard Taft dedicated the memorial. This was the first Lincoln Memorial; the Washington DC Lincoln Memorial was completed and dedicated in 1922. (Coincidentally, William Howard Taft, who by then was the Chief Justice of the United States, also dedicated the DC Lincoln Memorial).
The memorial and Sinking Springs Farm were donated to the Federal Government in 1916. In 2001, the Knob Creek Farm was added as a unit of the Birthplace park. Prior to that, Knob Creek had been privately owned.
The six columned marble and granite memorial building sits on the site where the cabin Lincoln was born in was located. The site is on a hill and the building is reached by climbing a staircase of 56 steps, one for every year of Lincoln’s life. Inside the memorial, a log cabin similar to one Lincoln lived in is present. Originally thought by some to be the actual cabin of Lincoln’s birth, scientific investigation revealed it to be from the 1840s. It is typical of the region from the first half of the 19th century, and is probably quite similar to what Lincoln’s actual cabin was like. A few steps away from the base of the staircase, Sinking Spring still flows as it did when Lincoln was born.
The park visitor center at the memorial has a film about the site as well as museum displays. There is no visitor center at the Knob Creek Farm. Both sites are located on U.S. Highway 31E; the Sinking Spring Farm, memorial, and park headquarters site is about 3 miles south of Hodgenville and the Knob Creek Farm is about 10 miles northeast of the memorial site, or about seven miles northeast of Hodgenville.