Lincoln Log Cabin, But Not Abe Lincoln's
The signs for this attraction call it "Lincoln Log Cabin," and its brochure promotes it with a picture of Abe and the tagline, "Lincoln Log Cabin, Where 1845 Comes Alive." But Abe Lincoln was born in 1809. Was America's 16th President still living in a log cabin when he was 36 years old?
This is actually Abe Lincoln's parents' log cabin, which they built and lived in for 14 years after Abe had left home to climb the political ladder in Springfield. And it's not even the real cabin, but a replica, built in the 1930s as a Depression make-work project. The real cabin was sold to a group of Chicago investors who wanted to display it at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. But Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe's son and a powerful Chicago lawyer at the time, killed the deal because he was embarrassed by the crude-looking house. The cabin was reduced to a pile of logs in a Chicago alley, and then it was thrown away.
This fake Lincoln Log Cabin certainly looks real enough, although photographs reveal that it's less undulating than Robert Lincoln's funhouse original. It's part of a larger site that recreates the entire Lincoln farm on its original land. Signs scattered around the property note that the Lincolns chose a "traditional independent lifestyle" over a house that would have made more sense by the mid-1800s, and add that "Abraham Lincoln visited frequently." The mood is enhanced by costumed, role-playing interpreters who roam the grounds and refuse to acknowledge that it's not 1845.
An accompanying Lincoln Log Cabin museum -- well done in our view -- has a display of Sarah Lincoln's broken dishes, an exhibit that shows that the role-players are actually normal people, and "The World of the 1845 Child" display, which asks "What are my snack foods?" The answers: radishes, rhubarb, curdled milk, artichoke roots, and headcheese. The mannequin scenes have button-activated audio voices, and there was nothing stopping us from pushing all the buttons at once and listening to the room fill with a cacophony, 1845-style.
The well-stocked gift shop sells Lincoln stovepipe hats and fake beards for less than those at the Lincoln Boyhood Home (another log cabin) in Indiana and the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. You can even buy tiny bricks here, chopped out of Lincoln's Springfield home. The opportunity to sell splinters from the log cabin has obviously been lost.