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The Mighty Lincolnabulum Of Charleston, Illinois

March 2023
1min read

For reasons not yet fully explained, many Americans appear to have grown fond of setting up great big colorful statues of characters real or imagined—the Golden Driller of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, or Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox, in Brainerd, Minnesota, or the really big buffalo that stands outside Evanston, Wyoming, doing nothing much.

One of the biggest such statues anywhere—and certainly the biggest statue of Lincoln (if the seated figure in the Lincoln Memorial ever stood up, he would be only a little over thirty feet tall)—can be found near the little town of Charleston, Illinois, the site of the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858 and not far from where Lincoln’s father and stepmother are buried. In the late 1960’s twenty local businessmen decided to take advantage of the town’s Lincoln connection to bring in a little tourist action. So they pooled resources, bought a five-acre plot of land for a park, then contracted with Gordon Displays of St. Paul to do them up a sixty-two-foot replica of Lincoln, constructed of fiber glass and corrugated steel. In 1969, with appropriate ceremony, the thing was put into place.

But its sponsors never got enough money together to develop the park; the statue itself began to flake and peel from neglect, and at some point someone shot away part of its left cheek. Finally, dark mutterings of complaint started coming from some Charleston citizens who thought the statue not only dilapidated, but ridiculous.

Last year, as a civic gesture, the developers donated the statue to the city, which turned right around and donated it to the builders of a 110-acre recreational development, called I Springhaven, outside of town. When complete, Springhaven will have 200 campsites, a water slide, a 31-acre lake, shops, a Lincoln Heritage Museum, and—we note with interest—an “American Heritage Museum.”

And the statue. Perhaps permanently. With proper maintenance, it is said, fiber glass may last forever.

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