LINCOLN— The Office of the Capitol Commission is celebrating the centennial of the Lincoln Monument located on the west plaza of the Nebraska State Capitol. The Lincoln Monument Centennial Rededication Program will be held on September 2, 2012, exactly 100 years after a crowd of over 10,000 Nebraskans looked on as Civil War veterans from Benedict and Omaha pulled aside U. S. flags to reveal Daniel Chester French’s Standing Lincoln statue. The centennial program will begin in the Warner Chamber on the second floor of the Nebraska State Capitol at 2:00 p.m. It will feature Director of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Michael Smith, speaking about the history of Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital city, and Mayda Jensen of Jensen Conservation in Omaha discussing Abraham Lincoln sculptor Daniel Chester French. Following the program, those assembled will move out to the Lincoln Monument for the formal rededication. The rededication will include proclamations by the executive and legislative branches of state government as well as a mayoral proclamation from the city of Lincoln. The Centennial Rededication will conclude with a reading of the Gettysburg Address by Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice, Michael Heavican.
The monument predates the construction of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s Capitol and is a symbol of Nebraskan’s pride in having their capital city named after the 16th president of the United States of America. On September 2, 1912, after a keynote address by William Jennings Bryan, the monument created by nationally known architect Henry Bacon and renowned sculptor Daniel Chester French was unveiled. Bacon and French went on to create the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. which was dedicated in 1922. The rededication ceremony will emphasize the significance of Nebraska’s Lincoln Monument as the first of the pair’s tributes to the fallen president.
The process which led to the dedication of the monument in 1912 began in 1903 with the introduction of House Roll No. 79, a bill to create the Abraham Lincoln Centennial Memorial Association of Nebraska (A.L.C.M.A of L.) In 1908, the 31st Nebraska Legislature appropriated funds for the statue to be matched by citizen’s donations. In 1909 the A.L.C.M.A. of N. awarded Daniel Chester French the commission for the sculpture and late that year French and architect Henry Bacon visited Lincoln to select the site for the monument. Ground was broken for the monument’s construction in December of 1911 and the dedication held nine months later. The Lincoln Monument was a significant feature on the grounds of the second Capitol.
When unveiled in 1912, the monument had stood as a separate feature on the second Capitol’s grounds. Capitol architect Bertram Goodhue was required to use the monument in his plan for the third Nebraska Capitol site. In his final design, Goodhue incorporated the monument into the west entrance plaza. Visitors, staff and elected leaders at the Capitol now walk through the monument as they enter the building from the west. Citizens use the plaza, with the Lincoln Monument as a backdrop, for rallies and programs, living out Lincoln’s words of hope in the Gettysburg Address inscribed in the granite monument “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.