Appreciating the Small but Monumental Treasures on the Journey

Apr 28, 2018

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To The Point

Sometimes it isn’t the Grand Canyons, but the 80 square foot bookstores that you find on your travels that stick with you the most. Here’s a story of a tiny hidden bookstore tucked away in the upper level of the Lincoln Memorial as told by Grandma Points…

Grandma Points

My dad, Grandpa Points, enjoys sharing glimpses into their travels here from time to time, but today it is my mom, Grandma Points who is helping us learn to explore and appreciate the small things on our journey. My parents both appreciate using much of their ‘retirement’ traveling more than they thought possible thanks to miles, points, and of course $15 flights on budget airlines. You will often find them packed in a free carry-on backpack ready to explore a National Park, enjoy the view at a scenic lake, skiing on a budget-friendly mountain, or working hard in their own backyard

I tend to gravitate to the small things in life. A cottage as opposed to a mansion. A single flower as opposed to a bouquet. Maybe growing up as the first generation to play with Barbie and her perfect miniaturization of doll-sized detailed clothing set the stage for me to love the beauty in small. For whatever reason, small will catch my eye and my curiosity.


The Lincoln Memorial has a small gem tucked away in the wings of the upper level that very much caught my curiosity.

It is not hidden, as it is clearly marked, but the grandeur and quiet respect of visiting Lincoln’s statue easily overwhelms your sensibilities, and you may not notice anything else.

However, on the north side, in the semi-dark, is a Harry Potter style bookshop. Rather than bright and modern, it has remained in the style of the 1922 monument with wooden bookshelves, small grill covered windows, souvenirs, and books.

The footprint of the store is around 200 square feet, but the actual customer area is closer to 80 square feet. It is so easy to miss that we did not notice it on our first visit to the memorial, but once discovered, I never miss a chance to enter its magical space when we are there.

The books offered for sale reflect both modern titles and words written by President Lincoln.

They are geared for the adult reader as well as for the younger set. Given the Lincoln Memorial’s proximity to the Vietnam Wall and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, there are books and items representing those memorials as well. Postcards, tee shirts and varied souvenirs are also available.

Who doesn’t want to buy their miniature, sculptured bust of Lincoln right at his home?

Our springtime trip to the memorial had surprises for us this year. This time I looked up and studied the ceiling above Lincoln. While natural light comes in from the open area in front of him, the overall lighting is subdued until you look up. Many shades of amber, gold, brown and yellow glow among the white columns. The ceiling is covered with tiles made from sheets of Alabama marble sliced about one half inch thick.  On the roof of the memorial are skylights which allows natural light to pass through the tiles from above. A whole new appreciation of the ceiling dawns when you realize the variations of color are due to the variations in the marble.

The 2011 earthquake did damage to the roof and the skylights. Currently, repairs are being made to both. The expected roof completion date is still many months out. An awesome perk of the renovations is a larger plan to provide visitors the ability to access the open portion beneath the chamber where Lincoln sits. One of the National Park Rangers said that the plan is to build an enclosed walkway in the base of the memorial so that you will be able to walk from one end of the base to the other. This new construction project will take an additional couple of years to complete.

My last new discovery at the Lincoln Memorial involved an elevator. I am NOT a fan of elevators, certainly not ones in buildings built in the first half of the 20th century. If questioned, I may have to admit to taking food in my backpack when I knew I was going to be riding elevators in large buildings. If we are ever stuck in an elevator, I will be able to provide refreshments to everyone as we wait to be saved. We found the elevator at the Lincoln Memorial, and I found the courage to see If it would safely carry us to where it says it goes. The much-used control panel had two choices – Statuary Chamber and Plaza Level. We opted for Plaza.

Hallelujah! It opened successfully into a modern, well-lit area displaying photographs telling the story of the construction of the memorial beginning in 1914. As you walk around the room, you learn more about the impressive history and amazing skills that went into its creation. Equally amazing was finding water fountains and restrooms.  Perhaps all of the country is already aware of these treasures at the bottom of the Lincoln Memorial, but they were a new discovery for us! 

When we exited the Plaza Level, I turned to memorize where the magic door was for future trips. Oh, and one more thing, the renovations will include a new elevator and a second set of restrooms. I will probably opt for the elevator from the 21st century when it is built as I’m a bit sensitive about those things.

Thanks to my mom for pointing out this small but ‘monumental’ treasure that on found on her journey. If you want to read more about their recent trip to Washington DC, don’t miss this post their post on seeing the Cherry Blossoms at peak bloom!


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