Park Service seeks public’s thoughts on Lincoln Memorial upgrade options

The National Park Service seeks the public’s input on three possible options for the Lincoln Memorial.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Proposed changes would provide views into the cathedral-like undercroft space that’s below the Lincoln Memorial statue chamber. Currently, the undercroft is not visible to the public. (Courtesy National Park Service)
Currently, the Lincoln Memorial has eight women’s toilets, seven men’s toilets and no family restrooms. Proposed changes would increase capacity and add family restrooms. (Courtesy National Park Service)
The Lincoln Memorial bookstore — currently on the chamber level of the memorial — is 200 square feet. One of the proposed changes would create 1,820 square feet of retail and exhibit space on the level below the statue chamber. (Courtesy National Park Service)

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service has released proposed plans for Lincoln Memorial renovations that would vastly expand exhibit space, add a second elevator and upgrade bathrooms. 

“Facilities that were last renovated 20 or 30 years ago are simply not sufficient to deal with the more than 8 million people a year who come to the Lincoln Memorial,” said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

The National Park Service is asking for public comment on three options:

Option A: Do nothing

“Leave things the way they are and continue to have substandard exhibits and facilities,” Litterst said.

Option B: “Bells and whistles”

(Preferred by the Park Service)

The “bells and whistles” option would create a vastly bigger exhibit and retail space under the statue chamber. It would add nearly 15,000 square feet of functional space for exhibits, education and research areas, Litterst said. It would also include a second set of bathrooms, add a second elevator and open expansive views into the cathedral-like undercroft level currently not visible to the public.

Option C: Modest improvements

Restrooms would be renovated, reconfigured and expanded slightly. The 200-square-foot bookstore would remain on the memorial’s chamber level. A picture window would open partial views into the undercroft area.

Even though one of the options for consideration is to do nothing, some type of upgrade is virtually assured due to an $18.5 million donation for the project from local philanthropist David Rubenstein.

The comment period on proposed changes is open through March 7.

“We not only have to take a look at ‘what are the good ideas,’ but we have to figure out what the impacts of some of these changes would be on the historic fabric of the Lincoln Memorial,” Litterst said. “The document [detailing options], we think, is a fairly exhaustive list of what some of those potential impacts could be, but there may be some things that folks notice or think about that we didn’t.”

You can access the comment page and the document detailing the various options under consideration on the Park Service website.

A public meeting to discuss the alternatives will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at the National Building Museum (401 F St. NW). The gathering will be in Suite 308, in the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.

Renovations are intended to be complete by 2020. Memorial centennial celebrations will be held in 2022.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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