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

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.

Yes, flash photography allowed in all public areas.

Driving directions
to the Tomb

Frequently Asked
Questions at the Tomb

Lincoln's Tomb - Now he belongs to the ages.

Driving Directions to the Tomb

Where are you starting from?

  • I'm already in downtown Springfield.
    1. Head north on 6th St.
    2. Turn left on to North Grand Avenue.
    3. Turn right on to Monument Avenue.
    4. Continue through Oak Ridge Cemetery Gate. Tomb will be visible directly ahead.
    5. Follow curving road then turn right up driveway and into Tomb parking lot.
  • From Interstate 55
    1. Take exit 105 to Sherman/Veteran's Parkway. At the bottom of the ramp, turn right.
    2. Follow Sherman Boulevard/Veteran's Parkway approximately 6.3 miles.
    3. Turn left on to J. David Jones Parkway.
    4. Follow road approximately 3/4 mile to Oak Ridge Cemetery entrance.
    5. Turn left into Cemetery gates. Follow road to four way intersection.
    6. Proceed straight through intersection, then turn left up driveway and into Tomb parking lot.

A Brief Historical Sketch of Lincoln's Funeral and Tomb

After President Lincoln's funerals in major cities of the northern states, starting on April 19th, 1865 at Washington, D.C., and following in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Chicago, and several other cities, the funeral train arrived at Springfield, Illinois at the Chicago and Alton railroad (not the Great Western RR where he made his farewell speech and left for Washington in 1861) on the morning of May 3rd. The reception committee took the following route from the depot: east on Jefferson St to Fifth, south on Fifth to Monroe, east on Monroe to Sixth, north on Sixth to the State House (now Old State Capitol).

For the past several days, the city was both in mourning and in a frenzy to form committees, organize the funeral obsequies, and bedeck the city in black mourning crepe. Many establishments in the city, including saloons and taverns, were closed in observance of the tragedy.

The funeral committees were composed chiefly of the leading businessmen of Springfield, as well as top constitutional officers from Governor Oglesby down to the Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. Many of these committees met in the library room of what is now the Old State Capitol.

Bishop Matthew Simpson of the Methodist Episcopal Church and General Joseph Hooker were each invited to deliver the funeral oration and act as Chief Marshal of the funeral parade, respectively.

With President Lincoln's death coming so unexpectedly, there were no plans as to his burial site. In Springfield, some people favored burial on the Mather block, an area of high ground at the west end of town, now the site of the present Illinois State Capitol building. Still others made arguments in favor of Oak Ridge Cemetery, a public cemetery owned by the city, established in 1860, and located about one mile north of downtown Springfield. Another committee formed to decide on a burial site, and without consulting Mrs. Lincoln, they selected the Mather block. Construction on a receiving vault for Lincoln's remains commenced at the Mather block on April 26th. By the 29th, it was reported that the vault was "in a good degree of forwardness, the walls being nearly completed." However, Mrs. Lincoln insisted upon Oak Ridge Cemetery, and the committee was forced to comply with her wishes, despite having already constructed a temporary vault.

Lincoln Funeral procession to State House in Springfield, Illinois
Lincoln Funeral procession to State House, May 1865

Though Lincoln's funeral was originally planned for Saturday, May 6th, the date was changed to Thursday, May 4th. On that day, tens of thousands of people filed through Representative Hall in the State Capitol to witness President Lincoln's mortal remains. Despite the change of burial place from the Mather block to Oak Ridge Cemetery, the temporary vault at the former site was completed "in order to be prepared for any contingency that might occur." The funeral procession began at precisely 10 o'clock on the 4th when the coffin was closed and carried out to the hearse as a choir of 250 sang "Peace troubled Soul" by Paesillo. After the remains were placed in the hearse, the procession commenced under the command of General Joseph Hooker. The route taken to Oak Ridge Cemetery started from Washington St to Eighth, then south to Cook, west to Fourth, north to Union St, west to Third, then directly north to Oak Ridge through the east gate of the cemetery. Once inside the cemetery, the hearse stopped at the Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault wherein the remains of President Lincoln were deposited, alongside those of his son, William Wallace, who had died in Washington, D.C. in 1862.

Soldiers at Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault, summer 1865
Soldiers at Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault, summer 1865

Formation of the National Lincoln Monument Association

Seven days after the funeral, the National Lincoln Monument Association was incorporated in Illinois by Richard J. Oglesby, Sharon Tyndale, O. H. Miner, James H. Beveridge, Newton Bateman, John T. Stuart, Samuel H. Treat, Jesse K. Dubois, O. M. Hatch, James C. Conkling, Thomas J. Dennis, John Williams, Jacob Bunn, S. H. Melvin, and David L. Phillips; all of whom were either constitutional officers, lawyers, judges, bankers, or prominent businessmen in the city of Springfield. Article Two of incorporation stated that the Association's object was "to construct a monument to the memory of Abraham Lincoln in the City of Springfield, State of Illinois."

The Association at the start wished to have the Mather block as site of the Lincoln Monument, but by mid-June were obliged by Mrs. Lincoln's wishes to retain Oak Ridge Cemetery as the location.

In late December 1865, a temporary tomb was completed for the reception of President Lincoln's remains while the Lincoln Monument was constructed. This temporary tomb, which has since been demolished, was located halfway up the hill between the Oak Ridge Public Receiving Vault and the present Monument. President Lincoln and his sons Edward Baker and William Wallace were buried in the temporary tomb until fall 1871.

Lincoln's Temporary Tomb, late 1860s
Lincoln's Temporary Tomb, late 1860s

Subscription of Funds for the Monument

Though funds for the Lincoln Monument were being collected in late April 1865, the Monument Association doubled its efforts by appointing agents across the country to canvass the public for donations. Direct appeals were made to all soldiers and sailors, churches and religious organizations, Sabbath (Sunday) schools, state legislatures, and all patriotic citizens.

Raising $200,000 for construction of the Monument so soon after the Civil War was itself a monumental task: the Federal Government and most of the states all had immense war debts, and many soldiers waited months to receive payment. Most private citizens had but little to give. Despite financial hardship, the State of Illinois made the largest single appropriation for the Monument, $50,000, followed by money appropriated by the states of New York, Missouri, Nevada, and Nebraska. The Federal Government donated 50,000 pounds of captured field howitzers to be melted down for bronze statuary.

Design of the Monument

Larkin G. Mead, Jr., a sculptor originally from Brattleboro, VT, was living in Florence, Italy at the time when he drew up a design proposal for the Lincoln Monument in 1865. He wrote the Monument Association that year of his proposal, and kept in contact over the course of the next few years. By 1868, enough funds had been subscribed that the Monument Association announced a world-wide design competition for the Lincoln Monument. Over 30 designs were submitted, a small number originating from Europe. Larkin Mead, who already had established a close relationship with the Monument Association, won the competition, and entered into contract on the 31st of December, 1868 to supply the bronze statuary and architectural design of the Monument.

Mead's design features a 10 foot high statue of Lincoln the Emancipator, commanding the forces of the Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Navy in order to defend and preserve the Union. At the President's feet is the Coat of Arms of the United States. The names of all 37 states in 1874 (today all 50 are represented) each appear in a shield, all of which are linked in an unbroken chain around the Monument, at the center of which soars a massive granite obelisk, over 100 feet tall. At the front of the Monument, the south end, was a small room known as Memorial Hall for collecting relics and mementos of the late President. At the north end, behind an iron gate, lay the sepulcher with several crypts for President Lincoln and his family.

As Larkin Mead was trained as a sculptor, not an architect, he enlisted the aid of Russell Sturgis, F.A.I.A, to prepare the construction drawings. William D. Richardson won the bid for construction contractor, and Springfield mayor Thomas J. Dennis served as superintendent of construction. Ground was broken in September 1869, and construction of the architectural portion of the Monument was largely finished by 1871, at which date the remains of Thomas Lincoln (who died that year), President Lincoln, William Wallace, and Edward Baker were buried in the crypts of the Monument.

Larkin G. Mead's design for the Lincoln Monument, 1876
Larkin G. Mead's design for the Lincoln Monument, 1876

President Grant at the Dedication

Though the members of the Monument Association wished to have all statuary completed at the time of the dedication, Richard Oglesby remarked in March 1874 that most of the Monument Association would "all be dead or defunct or nearly so" by the time the military group statues were all completed, and urged that the Monument be dedicated in the fall that year. The date was fixed as October 15, 1874, on the occasion of the Army of the Tennessee's reunion in Springfield. The statue of Lincoln and the Coat of Arms arrived in Springfield at the end of September, by which time President Grant had been invited by Oglesby to deliver a dedicatory address.

On the dedication day, among those present were President Grant, Vice President Wilson, Generals Sherman, Belknap, McDowell, Pope, Custer, Davis, and others. After speeches were read, the statue of Lincoln and the Coat of Arms were unveiled.

Interior of Memorial Hall, circa 1880
Interior of Memorial Hall, circa 1880

The First Custodian

Earlier in October 1874, John Carroll Power of Springfield tendered his own services as custodian for the Monument. The Monument Association accepted his service, and his duties were to keep the Monument open every day except Sundays, collect a 25 cent admission fee, keep the grounds clean, and in return he could keep the profits made from sales of photos or other souvenirs to the visitors. Custodian Power welcomed the first visitors to Memorial Hall on October 29th. Meanwhile, Mead's work on the four remaining statues continued until 1883, when the last statue was finally placed on the Monument.

Unfortunately, the Monument was not structurally sound, even before its dedication. In January 1873, T. J. Dennis wrote to the Association advising that "the joints of the stone on the platform [were] not secured as per details. Some strangers and citizens found fault with the work." The foundations were dug just 6 feet below grade and were inadequate to support the immense weight of the granite and brick masonry. The design of the upper terrace allowed water infiltration into the public areas of the Monument. Custodian Power, in his monthly reports to the Monument Association in the 1870s often wrote of the leaks caused by inadequate construction and poor drainage.

Though President Lincoln's body has never been stolen from its burial place, an attempt in fall 1876 came dangerously close. A group of counterfeiters wished to steal the President's body in order to exhort a ransom for its return. Fortunately, the U.S. Secret Service were able to stop the plot from coming to fruition. For a decade after, Lincoln's remains were hidden within the unfinished interior halls of the Monument (not in any cellar or basement, as there was none) until the coffin was finally buried in a concrete vault alongside Mrs. Lincoln's coffin in 1887 in the burial chamber.

The Lincoln Monument, circa 1902
The Lincoln Monument, circa 1902

The State of Illinois acquires the Lincoln Monument

Corrective measures were taken against the crumbling Monument in the 1880s, but by the 1890s, the Monument Association had no more funds with which to expend on maintenance of the structure, which was rapidly falling into disrepair. The Monument was deeded to the State of Illinois in 1895, whose legislature appropriated sufficient funds for its reconstruction, the work for which lasted from 1899 to 1901 under the supervision of Colonel James S Culver. As Custodian Power had died in early 1894, Major Edward S Johnson was appointed as Second Custodian the following year.

During reconstruction, the height of the obelisk was increased to a total of 117 feet above grade to correct its previously stumpy appearance. During construction, the coffins of President Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln, and the four Lincoln children buried within (including Robert Lincoln's son) were removed to a temporary vault located on the hill at the north east corner of the Monument. When construction was finished in April 1901, this vault was broken open and the coffins removed with the aid of a steam crane.

As a final act, President Lincoln's coffin was secured under several feet of concrete in September 1901 where it remains to this day. A small group of men, all of whom had known the President in life, verified the identity of the remains at that time and signed a statement swearing to the same. The youngest present was a 14 year old high school freshman named Fleetwood Lindley, who died in Springfield in 1963, making him the last living person to see the face of President Lincoln.

Coffins of President Lincoln and family removed, April 1901
Coffins of President Lincoln and family removed, April 1901

The Second Reconstruction

Custodian Johnson died in 1921 and was replaced that year by Herbert Wells Fay, Third Custodian. Fay, originally a newspaper editor from DeKalb, had established a massive photographic collection of famous individuals the world over, as well as a respectable collection of Lincoln relics. Custodian Fay housed his collection within Memorial Hall as well as the deep recesses of the unfinished, interior portions of the Monument.

By the late 1920s, the Monument was again beginning to deteriorate. In 1929, the Director of Public Works, H.H. Cleaveland, State Supervising Architect C. Herrick Hammond, F.A.I.A, and the Division of Architecture and Engineering's Chief Designer, Joseph F. Booton, A.I.A., collaborated on a magnificent interior redecoration of the Monument in marble and bronze. English Brothers of Champaign, IL served as general contractor for the construction, which was completed in June 1931. President Herbert Hoover delivered a dedication speech on June 17, 1931.

Custodian Fay retired in 1948 and died the next year at age 90. He was succeeded briefly by his son Earl Owen Fay. In 1951, George Cashman was appointed by Governor Adlai Stevenson as Fifth Custodian, a position which he served in until his retirement at the end of 1975. He was succeeded by Carol Andrews, the first woman to be Custodian, who retired in 1987. Nan Wynn served as Seventh Custodian from 1987 to 2008, when she retired and was succeeded by Candy Knox, Eighth Custodian, who retired in mid-2014.

As of September 2015, the Lincoln Monument has no full time Custodian, due to inadequate state finances.

Learn more about the Monument by reading the Frequently Asked Questions page.

A man with a movie camera films placement of Lincoln statue, 1931
A man with a movie camera films placement of Lincoln statue, 1931

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.

Photo credits: The first, the fourth, and the sixth historic photos and illustration are courtesy of the Library of Congress. The final two historic photos are courtesy of the Illinois State Historical Library. The color photo at top, the Oak Ridge Receiving Vault photo, the Temporary Tomb photo, and the Interior of Memorial Hall photo are all from the author's personal collection.