Caretakers of Abraham Lincoln's tomb, faced with budget cuts and a National Geographic critique that slammed the site as having "all the historical character of an office lobby," are a little on the defensive, even as they commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War president's assassination today in Springfield, Ill. The state that calls itself the "Land of Lincoln" faces a financial crisis that could see the Historic Preservation Agency that manages the tomb rolled into another department. Yesterday—the 150th anniversary of John Wilkes Booth's shooting of Lincoln, although the president lived until the following day—a group of tourists found the tomb's iron door locked, despite a sign saying the site should be open; budget cuts have cut hours and staffing. "We're all scared to death," says the president of the Lincoln Monument Association. "We don't know how things are going to be run."
And then there's the National Geographic article by a historian, which reads, "It's strange to think that there is a place where Lincoln still physically exists in the world, let alone that it's a place like this," calling the site "a disappointment." Illinois' Historic Preservation Agency would beg to differ, having thrown more than $2.5 million at recent repairs and renovations, leaving the tomb in what a rep describes as "excellent physical condition." Lincoln's tomb was designed by Vermont sculptor Larkin Mead, who won a national contest. Originally built on what historians describe as an "inadequate foundation," it was reconstructed first in 1899, then again in 1930. Hallways stretch on either side of a rotunda to the family burial chamber, where Lincoln lies below the inscription "Now He belongs to the ages." "It's absolutely gorgeous," said a visitor yesterday. "I don't get (the author's take) at all. This is very impressive."