Lincoln Memorial Reopens Following Spray Paint Cleanup

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial, on the National Mall in Washington, D. C., reopened at 6:30 p.m. Friday after being closed that morning due to vandals spraying it with green paint. No structural damage to the statue was reported but the green paint was on Lincoln’s lower left pants leg and coat.

The monument was partially reopened mid-morning Friday around 10:13 a.m. after police took down the yellow tape surrounding the crime scene. The upper chamber continued to be roped off during the day until 6:30 p.m. At that time, the memorial was fully reopened to visitors.

According to the National Park Service, this is the only time the memorial has been vandalized since it was first dedicated in 1922. The only other time it was closed in its 91-year history was for a brief time after the 2011 earthquake.

Carol Bradley Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks said some residue is still there, but she is “confident” there won’t be any permanent damage. Some of the paint landed on the chamber floor and was cleaned up by mid-afternoon. Cleaning crews are using gentle materials on the statue itself to get the paint off and will be back Monday to continue their work.

The land where the Lincoln Memorial rests used to be part of the Potomac River. In fact, until the late 1800s, the Washington Monument marked the river’s shoreline. As the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers made the channel deeper by dredging, the silt deposits built up along the riverbank and expanded the land to nearly a mile-wide section of mud. This was the proposed location for the memorial but the decision wasn’t finalized until 1913, after landscaping and engineering improved the area’s appearance by the 1900s.

Three artists worked together to create the Lincoln Memorial. Henry Bacon was the architect who designed the building. He is best known for the memorial but designed several buildings along the East Coast. Not only is this one his most famous work but it was also his last one.

Daniel Chester French sculpted the 120-ton statue of Abraham Lincoln. French was well-known for his statues of historical figures. His work is displayed throughout the East Coast but also has many works in the Midwest, as well as in Georgia and California.

Jules Guerin painted the murals. Guerin was a muralist and illustrator. His murals appear in several prominent buildings including New York’s Penn Station, the Chicago Civic Opera, Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, and the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. He was also known as an architectural delineator and had worked with Henry Bacon on a previous project. His two murals in the Lincoln Memorial are Reunion and Emancipation, located above the Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses.

The dedication ceremony was held May 30, 1922. Robert Todd Lincoln, the only surviving son of the 16th president, was the special guest. The keynote speaker that day was Dr. Robert Morton, second president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The Lincoln Memorial has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966.

Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent


National Park Service