Kentucky, the Original ‘Land of Lincoln’

The first Lincoln Memorial is in Hodgenville, Ky., not Washington, D.C. It has a connection to President Theodore Roosevelt. Image by Tom Adkinso
A Lincoln statue is in the center of Lincoln Square in Hodgenville. Lincoln National Bank is nearby. Image by Tom Adkinson

HODGENVILLE, Ky. – Illinois calls itself the “Land of Lincoln,” but Kentucky is where Abraham Lincoln was born. There’s no escaping that historical fact when you visit Hodgenville and the rolling countryside that surrounds this little town about 50 miles south of Louisville.

Hodgenville’s town square affirms you’re near Sinking Spring Farm, where Lincoln was born in 1809. There’s a Lincoln statue in the middle of the square that is adorned with excerpts from the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s second inaugural address, and around the square are Lincoln National Bank , a Lincoln museum, and Lincolns Loft Bookstore.

One non-Lincoln business on the square is Laha’s Red Castle, a magnet for lovers of slider hamburgers laden with steamed onions. Be prepared for an assault on your senses – sizzling beef patties, a wall of onion aroma, décor from decades ago – and perhaps a long wait if all the stools are occupied

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park has two major components near Hodgenville. Image by Tom Adkinson

The National Park Service preserves the Sinking Spring Farm site, part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, and the location where President Theodore Roosevelt came in 1909 to lay the cornerstone to the nation’s first Lincoln Memorial. That colonnaded marble structure stands atop a flight of 56 stairs, marking the 56 years of Lincoln’s life. Inside is a log cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born.

The visitor center offers an excellent film titled “Abraham Lincoln: The Kentucky Years,” and directs you to a second portion of the national park, Knob Creek Farm.

A cabin symbolic of the one where Lincoln was born in 1809 is inside the Lincoln Memorial. Image by Tom Adkinson

Lincoln’s family lived on 30 acres at Knob Creek from the time he was about two-and-a-half until he was almost eight years old. From there, it was on to Indiana and only after years there to Illinois.

Writing in 1860, Lincoln said his earliest memories came from Knob Creek Farm. In addition to good memories of family life was a harsh one of seeing African-Americans being walked down part of the pioneer Cumberland Road to be sold.

Today’s Hodgenville is understandably proud of its native son and organizes Lincoln Days in October (October 7-8 in 2017) to reinforce the connection. The celebration includes a rail-splitting contest, pioneer games, a classic car show (although it’s certain Lincoln never drove a Lincoln) and, yes, a look-alike contest for Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln.

If you’re a prospect for the Mary Todd Lincoln contest, you can start sewing your dress now, and if you’re a candidate to impersonate Honest Abe, you can start looking for a stovepipe hat and growing the required beard.

The National Park Service’s museum at the Lincoln birthplace provides many insights into Lincoln’s life. Image by Tom Adkinson

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