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Get to Know Abe Lincoln in Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Ky. He spent his first seven years on two small farms near Hodgenville, about 55 miles south of Louisville. Although he and his family moved to Indiana in 1816, Lincoln was strongly influenced by his early years on the Kentucky frontier and formed ideas, associations and friendships here that he would carry throughout his life.

To learn about the sixteenth president’s early life, explore the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville and venture out along the Lincoln Heritage Trail that connects many sites with Lincoln ties in central Kentucky.

As one of the most recognized figures in American history, Lincoln is memorialized at the place of his birth by an impressive neoclassical shrine that houses a log cabin symbolic of the one in which he was born. The Memorial Building, completed in 1911, was the first permanent shrine to Lincoln. It sits atop a hill that you ascend by climbing 56 granite steps, one for each year of the great leader’s life.

Watch the orientation film, “Abraham Lincoln: The Kentucky Years,” and tour the building, which is open 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day, and from 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Park ranger-led tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and visits are self-guided during the rest of the year. Admission is free.

Several miles away, visit Lincoln’s boyhood home at Knob Creek. The Lincolns lived at this 30 acre farm from the time Abraham was 2 until he was nearly 8 years old. Lincoln later wrote that his earliest memories were of life on this frontier farm, where he carried water from the spring, gathered firewood and picked berries on surrounding hills.

While in Hodgenville, also tour the Lincoln Museum. This private museum, which charges a modest admission fee, chronicles Lincoln’s life with memorabilia, dioramas and an art gallery. The main square of Hodgenville is dominated by an imposing statue of Lincoln inaugurated in 2009 to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth.

Other places of interest to learn about Lincoln and his family in central Kentucky include Lincoln Homestead State Park in Springfield, where you can visit the Mordecai Lincoln House, the only existing structure owned and occupied by a Lincoln family member in Kentucky that still stands on its original site; the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, the girlhood home of Lincoln’s wife; and the Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront Park in Louisville, a sculptural monument unveiled for the Lincoln bicentennial that uses a variety of elements to interpret his lifelong ties to Kentucky.

For more ideas on how to get close to Lincoln in Kentucky, click here.