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Lincoln Legacy: Museum honors 16th president

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By Brandon Mattingly

The Lincoln Legacy museum at the 1816 Courthouse was officially opened to the public on Friday, and the display received plenty of praise.

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Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles and Springfield Mayor John Cecconi helped introduce the museum to the community, and Cecconi told the group outside the courthouse that the building’s rich history made it the perfect home to honor Lincoln.

“We take great pride in our ancestors who have taken care of this facility for nearly 200 years,” Cecconi said. “Now we invite visitors to this place to read, view and learn about the Lincoln family history in Washington County.”

Settles said the museum will tell not only of the impact Lincoln has had on Central Kentucky, but how small-town life affected him and his family as well.

“It will serve the purpose of educating its visitors on the heritage of Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln family, and how our humble but hard-working ancestors were instrumental in the development of the 16th president,” Settles said.

Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow said the timing of the dedication was fitting, as it was near the April 14 date that Lincoln was shot in 1865. The location of the dedication being in Springfield, however, was the most important thing, according to Sparrow.

“This is also an important place to honor the 16th president since his history and a significant part of our culture’s history began in a place very near here on June 12, 1806, when his parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks were married,” Sparrow said.

She added that one of the biggest reasons for leisure travel across the country is to visit places that have a casual connection to our nation’s history. That could mean a boost for Kentucky tourism.

Sparrow was convinced that the Washington County community will be pleased with the impact of their latest addition.

“I am proud of the efforts by Springfield and other communities that contribute greatly to Kentucky’s heritage tourism,” she said. “I think this hard work has paid off and will continue to do so.”

Stuart Sanders, professional services administrator for the Kentucky Historical Society, said the Lincoln Heritage trail should particularly benefit from the addition.

“This museum will greatly compliment Kentucky’s other Lincoln sites and really make the Lincoln Heritage trail a vibrant heritage tourism destination,” he said. “The commonwealth will definitely benefit from all of your hard work.”

The Kentucky Historical Society also brought along their Historymobile, which currently displays a Civil War exhibit, which was previously dedicated to Abraham Lincoln from 2008 to 2012. Sanders said the Lincoln exhibit made 268 stops across Kentucky over those four years and welcomed nearly 187,000 visitors.

Fifth-graders who were in attendance for the dedication were treated to a turn checking out the Historymobile, as well as the Lincoln Legacy museum. Settles said he hoped it could be a memorable learning experience for the youngsters.

“One day you’ll look back on this and say, ‘I was there when they dedicated that museum,’” Settles said. “Most of us as adults have someone in our life where we look back on something a teacher or parent made us do, and we’re really glad they did. Hopefully today will be one of those days.”

Other guests at the opening ceremony included Washington County resident Joe Hamilton and Marion County High School graduate Don Johnson. Hamilton posed as Honest Abe himself and delivered the president’s iconic Gettysburg Address speech. Johnson is a member of President Lincoln’s Own Band, which has been featured in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and National Geographic’s “Killing Lincoln.”

Johnson shared with the crowd one of the songs that his group performed in “Lincoln.”

The hours of operation for the Lincoln Legacy museum are Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.

Group tours are available for appointment by calling (859) 336-5410. Visit www.lincolnlegacymuseum.org to find out more.