Fred L. Fishback, an aide to Senator Winthrop Crane of Massachusetts who has given considerable attention to how best to memorialize President Lincoln, calls the concept of building a Greek temple in his memory “laughable.” As reported in the Boston Globe:
The memorial should be of such a character that it would tell those who live 1000 years hence something of the history of the time that gave Lincoln to the Nation, something of his origin, his character, his life, his accomplishments.
The memorial suggested would be supposed by every one who sees it in the centuries to come to have been erected by the Greeks more than 400 years before Christ, as was the Parthenon. Without the name of Lincoln above the portal or his statue within its walls, no one would understand that it was intended to commemorate in any way the life of Lincoln.
It would be just as well to attempt to perpetuate the life and times of the Great Emancipator by a Roman colloseum or an Egyptian pyramid as by the proposed Greek temple. It is hard to believe that this Greek temple can be accepted as a fitting memorial to Abraham Lincoln, whom Lowell called “The First American.” The very idea is laughable.
Mr. Fishback also strongly objects to the location of the proposed memorial — a portion of the mall that used to be a swamp — which has no connection to Lincoln’s life. Any memorial, Fishback argues, should “mark some spot which he knew well and which was dear to him or which had some significance in connection with his work.” Far better, Fishback argues, to have a memorial connected to Gettysburg, “the place where he uttered the most memorable words of his career . . . than constructing in a spot which he never saw, because it was under water in his lifetime . . . .”
Or, Fishback suggested, the memorial could be located on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, “because he made his home there in the summer time during the war.”
Or perhaps a “memorial bridge across the Potomac to Arlington” would be appropriate, to “unite the North and the South and connect the city of Washington with the resting place of thousands of men who died to save it.”
Or, Fishback’s personal favorite, as he explained in an article last year, a memorial could be built at Fort Stevens, on “the spot where Lincoln stood and watched the attempt by Gen. Early to take Washington in July, 1864, the only time when a man while actually President of the United States” has been under fire.
In Fishback’s view, the least acceptable option is the “laughable” idea of memorializing Lincoln by placing a Greek temple “on the far western edge of the mall . . . where only those who own or an hire automobiles or other conveyance, will ordinarily see it,” and where “it will be completely dominated” by the “most impressive” Washington Monument, while destroying “the present natural beauty of the mall . . . .”