His Old Kentucky Home

Sunday, March 18, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

On the History Highway, Day 4

HODGENVILLE, Kentucky—  Leaving Franklin, TN, this morning, we zipped up I-65 to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY.  In preparation for a letterboxing project we're working on with the museum staff, we explored the exhibits for an hour and a half, taking notes and photos of potential hiding places.  After we finished a flaky, flavorful spanakopita and a spicy vegetarian briami at Anna's Greek Restaurant, it was almost 2 p.m. by the time we left Bowling Green.


We still wanted to make it to Lincoln's birthplace memorial in Hodgenville— 70 miles north— before it closed at 4:45.  Thinking we had time to find a few letterboxes near Mammoth Cave National Park on the way, we exited the interstate and quickly realized we were wrong.  But we did take time for just one.


On the back roads leading to the Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, we saw numerous Amish families on the road, presumably on their way home from Sunday church services.  As we passed them, the children peered around the corner of the buggy checking us out, just as curious about us as we were about them.

Just before we arrived at the Lincoln park near Hodgenville, we noticed the clock in our car suddenly jump from 3:15 to 4:15.  Thinking our clock was malfunctioning , we looked around and saw a bank sign flashing the same time, 4:15.  When we arrived at the park at 4:20, we asked a ranger for the correct time.  He chuckled and nodded his understanding of our confusion.  "When you entered LaRue County, you came into the Eastern time zone," he said.  "The park closes in 25 minutes."

Certainly not what we were hoping for, but we'd just have to cram our visit into the few remaining minutes.  As it turned out, with all the announcements that followed, we really had only about 15 minutes before we were given the bum's rush out the gate to ensure that the rangers were able to leave precisely at 4:45. But we made the most of those few minutes.


When Virginia natives Thomas and Nancy Lincoln bought a 300-acre farm in Nolin Creek, Kentucky, they never suspected that their humble home would become a part of the landscape of American history.  Two months after they moved into the 12 x 16 ft cabin they built on Sinking Spring Farm, their son Abe was born in February, 1809.

Almost 100 years later, a movement was organized to commemorate the birthplace of that baby, Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, credited with preserving the United States through its most trying and divisive period— the Civil War.  Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryan helped to found the Lincoln Farm Association, which conducted a grass roots campaign to raise money for the Lincoln birthplace memorial.


On February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the location to lay the cornerstone for the memorial.  Though the day was cold and rainy, 12,000 people attended the ceremony.

Two years later, President Taft traveled to Kentucky for the dedication of the memorial designed by architect John Russell Pope.  The Lincoln Farm Association presented the building and property to the state of Kentucky, which five years later ceded it to the United States government to become a national park.  The memorial building houses what was initially thought to be the log cabin where Lincoln was born.  Later it was acknowledged to be a cabin from the same time period which serves as a symbolic representation of Lincoln's birthplace.


The memorial building features 16 windows and 16 rosettes on the ceiling to commemorate Lincoln's place as the 16th President.  There are also 16 posts around the cabin.  Leading to the memorial building are 56 steps, a reminder that Lincoln was only 56 years old when he died.

In addition to visiting the memorial, we managed to find one letterbox on the grounds before being shoved out the gate before the clock struck 4:45.  About ten miles past the park, our clock slipped back to 3:50 p.m.  We were tempted to go back but didn't think there would be any rangers left to convince that it wasn't closing time yet.

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Franklin, TN; ended in Williamsburg, KY
  • Miles traveled:  309
  • States today:  2 (TN, KY)
  • States this year:  10 (only 38 to go)
  • Letterboxes found:  2
  • Road kill:  18 various mammals and reptiles
  • Corvettes in museum:  53
  • Amish buggies:  12
  • Lincoln logs:  122