Behind the Scenes at the Lincoln Memorial
By Elliot Carter
Construction began on the Lincoln Memorial in 1914 on the muddy stretch of land known as the Potomac flats. The Army Corps of Engineers had just finished their 40 year long dredging and landfill project that produced the shoreline we know today.
Workers had to dig down 40 feet before work could begin on the marble monument. Here they poured dozens of concrete columns to support the surface structure.
“Down in the basement of the Lincoln Memorial, they actually have things written on some of the pillars" said Steven Schorr, who led a preservation project in 2012. "The builders actually drew cartoons and they have them covered in Plexiglas. At one point, they said they used to allow the public down there, but they don’t let people down there anymore."
Some of the more artistic scrawlings included depictions of President Taft and actress Gloria Swanson.
The National Park Service allowed flashlight tours of the basement in the 1980s, but they were halted in 1989 after the discovery of asbestos.
Photographer Bruce Guthrie gained access to the site in 2008 and has these cool photos on his website: