SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Caretakers of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb are on the defensive over an unflattering critique in National Geographic magazine and looming budget cuts that could threaten management of the historic site, even as they commemorate the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War president’s assassination.
For the state that calls itself the “Land of Lincoln,” the timing of a ceremony today in Springfield to mark his death is awkward because Illinois faces a financial crisis and Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed eliminating the state Historic Preservation Agency that manages sites including the tomb as it currently exists. He would roll the agency into another department.
What’s more, the popular tourist site was pilloried in this month’s issue of National Geographic magazine as having “all the historical character of an office lobby.”
Recounting the route of Lincoln’s funeral train to Springfield for burial, historian Adam Goodheart describes the tomb as “a disappointment” and reconstructed in “incongruous Art Deco style.”
“It’s strange to think that there is a place where Lincoln still physically exists in the world, let alone that it’s a place like this,” writes Goodheart, who is director for Washington College’s Center for the American Experience in Maryland. Goodheart’s publicist didn’t return a request for comment.
The hours and days the Lincoln tomb is open have been reduced, and it’s staffed with fewer employees since state lawmakers last year cut $1.1 million funding for sites in the Springfield area.
On Tuesday — the 150th anniversary of John Wilkes Booth’s shooting of Lincoln — Joan Boatz and a group of former bridge club friends found the tomb’s iron door locked.