Lincoln Memorial Shrine
A.K. historic beauty Smiley Public Library makes it easy to overlook another of the city’s most dignified monuments, the Lincoln Memorial. This shrine is exactly what it sounds like – a memorial to the 16th President of the United States. While the shrine is filled with Civil War photographs and artifacts that provide historical background to Lincoln’s life, the story of the shrine and its arrival in Redlands has its own rich history. The Lincoln Memorial is a museum and memorial dedicated to deepening the understanding of President Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War and its impact on generations of Americans through education, outreach, exhibits, and research. Lincoln never set foot in California, but 60 miles east of Los Angeles is a small museum that focuses on the 16th president of the United States and the war waged during his tenure to preserve the Union. The original building was a one-room octagon with a limestone exterior engraved with Lincoln quotation marks. It was donated to the city in 1932 by Robert and Alma Watchorn, whose own story – and the shrine itself – is quite remarkable. Robert Watchorn was born in England in 1859. As a child he worked grueling shifts in a coal mine for little pay, then found himself doing the same job in America as a young adult. Watchorn helped end child labor in Pennsylvania and worked on immigration. In 1905 he was appointed Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island.
In 1909, Watchorn moved into oil and made his fortune with the Watchorn Oil and Gas Company. He and his wife Alma chose Redlands as their winter home. When the United States entered World War I, their son Emory Ewart Watchorn volunteered for the United States Army Air Service, while Robert and Alma supported the war from home. Ewart’s time as a pilot took a toll on his health. He made it home to California, but complications led to his death at age 25. The grieving parents envisioned the shrine as a way to honor their son’s memory, as both Robert and Ewart admired President Lincoln. Ten years after their son’s death, the Watchorns began to revive the shrine. Later it was expanded with two new wings on both sides of the original octagon. It is surrounded by charming fountains and courtyards and a recently dedicated canon. The centerpiece of the original octagon is a Carrara marble bust of Lincoln by American sculptor George Gray Barnard. The cross is framed in a well-lit archway with an excerpt from the Gettysburg Address in the background. The domed ceiling mural has eight allegorical figures representing aspects of Lincoln’s character: wisdom, strength, justice, patience, courage, faith, tolerance, and loyalty. There is also a life mask of Lincoln and a cast of his head and career in law and politics. The latest acquisition appears to be the hatchet of the Rail Splitters’ Brigade, a general organization of Wide Awakes that rallied behind Lincoln during the 1860 presidential campaign. In one wing, there are Civil War artifacts such as a clapboard, a coffee pot, a 16-pound bullet, a sling drum, and a whole host of surgical instruments. Among these artifacts are interesting stories, like that of William Lugenbeal, who survived the sinking of the Sultan with the help of an unfortunate alligator. There are also sentimental memorabilia from the Lincolns themselves, including Mary Todd and Willie’s hair. A post-World War II Norman Rockwell painting, alternately titled Lincoln’s Long Shadow or Thoughts of Peace on Lincoln’s Birthday, acknowledges Lincoln’s legacy nearly a century after his death. The centerpiece of the work is a disabled veteran in uniform, but his gaze is locked on the upper left corner of the frame, where a bust of Lincoln is partially visible. This small museum is complemented by a number of interactive stations – a telegraph where you can test your skills with Morse code, and a kitschy but strangely charming cut-out photo of Abe Lincoln. Don’t forget to check out this place in Rialto too.
Lincoln Memorial Shrine is open from 1 p.m. at 17:00 from Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on major holidays, with the notable exception of President’s Day, the only Monday of the year when the museum is open. The Lincoln Memorial also has a research collection located in the Smiley Library Heritage Room and accessible by appointment. The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is the only museum and archive dedicated to the study of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War west of the Mississippi River. Its extensive collection of manuscripts, diaries, photographs and artifacts is managed by the Smiley Library’s Special Collections Department. 25 minutes from the Rialto in Redlands is the Lincoln Memorial, a museum honoring Abraham Lincoln and the history of the American Civil War. The building itself is an icon, built in 1932 in the shape of an octagon, with inscriptions of Lincoln’s speeches on its outer walls. The museum is also surrounded by charming fountains, halls and courtyards, and is definitely the place to be for those who want to know all about this amazing period in American history. If you are ever in need of home renovation, click here.