The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area

The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area was enacted by the Congress and signed by the President on May 10, 2008. The legislation designates the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, a nonprofit 501c3 corporation, to manage the Heritage Area. Both the Coalition and National Heritage Area cover the same 42 counties of central Illinois and share a mission to preserve, interpret and promote the heritage and culture of the area, in the context of Abraham Lincoln’s life in Illinois. They seek to inform and educate, develop and interpret visitor-ready sites, create living history experiences, chronicle the evolution of the area’s landscape and extend these opportunities to the largest audience possible.

The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, the only Heritage Area named for an American President, is home to a very unique collection of American history, surrounding America’s most revered President. It is most closely focused on the 30 years Lincoln lived in central Illinois, raising his family and pursuing his passion for the law and politics. During this time, we now know he was unwittingly preparing himself to become the President who would hold the Nation together during a time of unprecedented challenges, that of a Civil War, requiring enormous courage to save the Union and bind its wounds, while trying to cleanse the scourge of slavery from our national culture. He was ultimately successful in his objective but gave his “last, full measure of devotion” at Ford’s Theatre in 1865. We now believe his was a journey to immortality.

Next Steps

In order to be designated as a national heritage area, Looking for Lincoln created a Feasibility Study (PDF download of 3.11 MB) which makes the case for designation. The next step for the newly designated heritage area is to create a management plan which will provide the direction and framework for the future of the project. National heritage areas are collaborative efforts that encourage significant input from participating communities. The management plan process includes building consensus, establishing partnerships, identifying regional vision, priorities and strategies. Once the plan is completed, the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area can apply for federal funding for projects that have been determined to be priorities within the area. Funding is available once that management plan is approved by the National Park Service. The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition is hoping to complete the planning process within 18 months.

Click here to see Public Law 110-229, creating the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area