Securing the Future of One of America's Most Iconic Monuments

The Lincoln Memorial has long been one of America’s most visited monuments and the scene of some of the defining moments of the last century. In time for the 250th anniversary of the country, a new expansion project will transform a massive, long-hidden space beneath the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall into an immersive museum, exhibition, and theater space, encouraging visitors to explore the story of one of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, and to learn about the nation’s progress toward becoming a more perfect union.
Visited each year by seven million people from around the world, the Lincoln Memorial sits atop a massive stone and concrete “undercroft” which, long unused, will now be transformed into a state-of-the-art visitor engagement center.
Photo Credit: S. Greg Panosian

Griffin Catalyst is joining with the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, and a group of civic-minded donors and philanthropies to support the construction of a $69 million museum underneath the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Located in a cavernous, long-unused area of the building known as the undercroft, the project will propel the Lincoln Memorial—dedicated in 1922—into the future, coinciding with America’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The expansion will tell the story of America’s 16th president and the site’s century-long heritage as a monument to the fundamental principle of equal rights for every individual.

WHO WE’RE SUPPORTING

The public-private partnership supporting the renovation will bring together the federal National Park Service, which is committing $26 million to the effort, and the non-profit National Park Foundation, which is working with donors to commit an additional $43 million. Griffin Catalyst has partnered with the other foundations and individuals, including David M. Rubenstein, to make this vision for the Lincoln Memorial a reality.

The funding will support the construction of a 15,000 square feet, state-of-the art exhibition and theater space within the Lincoln Memorial’s massive undercroft, interwoven among its tall grid of soaring 40-foot-high concrete columns. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls will allow visitors a view of the century-old structure—including scrawled graffiti left by the building’s original construction crews—while immersive storytelling will highlight the memorial’s history as a site for historic events.

“Thanks to the National Park Foundation and its generous donors,” observes National Mall superintendent Jeff Reinhold, “visitors will be able to view this dramatic architectural feature, learn about how the memorial was built, and how its meaning has evolved over the last century.”

WHY IT MATTERS

The centrality of the Lincoln Memorial in American life begins with the outsized figure of Abraham Lincoln himself, regarded as one of the nation’s greatest presidents.  His leadership during one of the most perilous moments in U.S. history—holding the nation together through four years of the Civil War and setting it on the path of reconciliation after victory—was deepened by his commitment to working toward equality, through the abolition of slavery and several landmark amendments to the Constitution.

Those achievements have made the Lincoln Memorial an international visitor destination, with some 8 million annual visitors. But it has also made the structure the setting of great public demonstrations for equality and civil rights, from the African American singer Marian Anderson’s historic 1939 outdoor concert for an audience of 75,000—after she was denied permission to sing in the still-segregated Constitution Hall—to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where, from the Lincoln Memorial’s steps, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech to a quarter of a million people on the National Mall.

As one of America’s foremost cultural institutions, this rich history will be brought to life for the next generations of Americans and visitors.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

“That government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth,” reads the concluding clause of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, inscribed in the South Chamber of the Lincoln Memorial. Dedicated to the American ideals of democracy, equality, and liberty, Lincoln remains a towering figure in our nation’s history. Construction of the new visitor space will reaffirm the importance of these enduring principles for millions of visitors annually, and with plans to open to the public in 2026, contribute to the larger celebration of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States.

The new engagement center is expected to enlarge and enrich the educational value of the monument’s visitor experience. With the renovated undercroft, the Lincoln Memorial will expand upon the story of one of America’s greatest presidents, of the critical struggles through which he led the nation, of the great classical structure built five decades later to honor his heroic leadership and enduring words, and of epochal gatherings and events that, centered on this iconic site, sought to achieve a more perfect union.