No other president stirred the imagination of the American public like Abraham Lincoln. From his humble beginnings to his dramatic death, Lincoln's life and times have seeped into the mythology of the country. His name, face and deeds are memorialized in hundreds of American cities, including Cleveland.
Lincoln visited Cleveland only twice: once in life and once in death. There are no extant photos of his first visit, which occurred on February 15, 1861, when Lincoln was on his way from Illinois to his inauguration in Washington D.C. Contemporary newspaper accounts captured the excitement as crowds gathered at the elegant Weddell house on the corner of Bank (West 6th) Street and Superior Avenue to hear Lincoln speak from the balcony. The staunchly Democrat Cleveland Plain Dealer briefly put aside its political bias to celebrate the historic occasion.
The Plain Dealer spent much of the next four years criticizing the president and his policies, but it once again put politics aside to mourn Lincoln’s death in April, 1865. The slain president's funeral train arrived in Cleveland on the morning of April 28. The casket was then drawn by horse and carriage to Monument Park (Public Square) followed by a procession of dignitaries and veterans. Thousands of Cleveland area residents gathered in the rain to file past the open casket.
Lincoln was in the news again in Cleveland in 1923, as plans for a local memorial were debated. Controversy arose over the choice of sculptor and the location of the statue. Max Kalish ultimately was chosen as sculptor. The originally proposed site for the memorial was the intersection of Huron Road and Euclid Avenue in Playhouse Square. After much debate, however, the statue ended up on Mall A, in front of (but now behind) the Board of Education building, which became the Drury Hotel in 2016. (The building's main entrance originally faced west until East 4th Street was removed in 1988.) Cleveland schoolchildren donated pennies and nickels to fund the statue.
The memorial was unveiled with great ceremony on Lincoln's birthday in 1932 and served as the location for Lincoln birthday celebrations for many years afterwards.