Land of Lincoln celebrates his 200th birthday

February 12, 2009 3:37:35 PM PST
Across Illinois, events and dedications are marking the bicentennial anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Statue installed in Lockport

In south suburban Lockport, as a young legislator, the 16th president championed the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which made Chicago the town it is. On Thursday, Lincoln's birthday was marked with a new park that sits between the canal and the tracks that carried Lincoln's funeral train.

"He was such a great man. We can prove that Lincoln was here in Lockport. We're not really sure exactly where he walked or how long he was here, but he obviously knew of Lockport and that's kind of special," said Lynne Smaczny, Will Co. Historical Society.

Lincoln Landing is the vision of native Lockport resident Bob Carr, whose Give Something Back Foundation helped make the park a reality.

"This gives the people in Lockport something to identify with and makes Lockport a significant name in the history of America, which it is," said Bob Carr, Give Something Back foundation.

More than 200 people gathered to dedicate a new piece of history and is focal point - a bronze statue of a young Abe Lincoln. It's meant to show the multiplicity of Lincoln's character. The artist wanted something unique.

"When I pitched the idea, this was actually one of the wildest ones and the people of Lockport seemed to really click with it. So I went with that one," said David Ostro, artist.

As music played on this 200th birthday, Lockport welcomed a permanent Lincoln - the statesman, the emancipator, and he simple guy sitting on he banks of a canal.

Schools recite Gettysburg Address

At Abraham Lincoln School in Oak Park, stove-pipe hats and beards are in place to honor the president's 200th birthday.

"Because our school is named after President Lincoln we study about him at this time of year and it is part of the fourth grade curriculum. Today holds special meaning on his 200th birthday," said Cathy Hamilton, principal.

To celebrate, students across the state recited the Gettysburg Address at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. Organizers hoped to set a new world record for the most people reading aloud simultaneously. The old record is 223,363. But even more important is the history lesson.

"He was the 16th president and he was basically the one who changed this world tremendously. He ended slavery. Talked about the civil war and how it should end and how we should treat each other at peace,' said Anna Kindler, fourth grader.

"He wanted black people to vote but now we have a black president," said Zaria Pryor, fourth grade student.

"I think he was a really nice man and besides and it wasn't really his fault that he had to start the war. It is the people who had the idea of starting slaves in the south," said Jack Richardson, fourth-grade.

After reciting the address, the students sang Happy Birthday to the Illinois native.

Other Chicago celebrations include one-cent admission to the Chicago History Museum, where students can stand in Lincoln's footsteps and get an close-up look at the new exhibit honoring him, and a wreath laying ceremony at the Lincoln statue on the city's North West Side.