By Mike Steely
Most people know that Kentucky and Illinois are “Lincoln states,” both honoring the Civil War president with his birthplace, family home locations, and Lincoln’s grave, office and last home site in Springfield.
Did you know that East Tennessee also honors Lincoln?
Earlier this month, Harrogate was the site of the grand reopening of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum (ALLM). Just a stone’s throw from Cumberland Gap, it might seem an odd place, in a Confederate state, to honor Ole Abe Lincoln. Yet the president had a soft spot in his heart for East Tennessee and the pro-Union population here. He suggested that the Cumberland Gap area would be a great place for a university.
Hence, Lincoln Memorial University was founded in 1897 and has and expanded over the years in the heart of the small Claiborne County town. LMU is only about an hour from Knoxville up Maynardville Highway, or Highway 33, to Tazewell and then north on Highway 25E. The museum is immediately on the north side of the highway at the main gate to Lincoln Memorial University.
Nearby places of interest include the historic Cumberland Gap, the Cumberland Gap highway tunnel, Cumberland Gap National Park, and campgrounds along Highway 58 just inside Virginia. Hiking up the trail from Cumberland Gap brings you past Cudjo Caverns and the three-state marker where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet.
The ceremony featured free admission and included a visit to the pioneer village at the museum. The $7 million renovation and expansion project opened the first floor of the museum complex back up for the first time since its 2019 closing. Phase II of the renovation involves work on the second floor and should be finished in 2022.
ALLM houses a diverse collection of Lincoln and Civil War artifacts. The first floor galleries have exhibits about President Lincoln’s childhood and pioneer upbringing. The Kincaid Gallery highlights important artifacts from Lincoln’s life, a constitutional exhibit, items from Lincoln’s time in the White House, and items from his last days of life.
Two new exhibits feature the LMU story and the Rose Gallery houses a unique collection of Civil War weaponry and medical equipment.
General admission to the museum complex is $5 for adults, $ 3.50 for seniors and $3 for children 6 to 12 years old. ALLM is open 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday noon until 5 p.m. You can also find LMU and the ALLM online or by calling 800-325-0900.