West Virginia State Capitol Complex Walking Tour

Lincoln Walks at Midnight

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art ()

Overview Listen

West Virginia sculptor Fred Torrey designed Lincoln Walks at Midnight in the 1930s based on Vachel Lindsay’s 1914 poem of the same name. The statue represents Lincoln's decision to grant West Virginia statehood during the Civil War.


Photo Photo by: Jodie Groves
Photo Photo by: Billy Heath III
Photo Poet Vachel Lindsay
Photo A side view of "Lincoln Walks at Midnight"

Backstory Listen

   Fairmont, West Virginia sculptor Fred Torrey designed Lincoln Walks at Midnight based on Vachel Lindsay’s 1914 poem of the same name. Lindsay’s poem depicts Lincoln's restless spirit walking through Springfield, Illinois in the midst of the Civil War. The statue represents the former president on one such night as he considers how to respond to West Virginia's application for statehood in the midst of the Civil War. The 42-inch plaster model of the statue was displayed at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. 

   Lindsay's poem was published in Louis Untermeyer's Modern American Poetry book in 1919. Additionally, Composers Roy Harris and Florence Price have created scores based upon the poem.

   After Torrey’s death in 1967, the sale of the statue’s model was delayed. Though discussion of the model’s purchase was begun in 1966 the sale was not completed until 1969. In 1974, Charleston artist Bernard Wiepper created a nine-and-a-half-foot bronze cast of the original model. The statue was placed in front of the West Virginia State Capitol to represent Lincoln contemplating the creation of West Virginia as the 35th state in the Union. Lincoln approved the West Virginia statehood bill on December 31, 1862, and West Virginia entered the Union as a state independent from Virginia on June 20, 1863. The statue is located in front of the south portico of the West Virginia State Capitol overlooking the Kanawha River and located in front of the capitol's main rotunda.

1900 Kanawha Blvd E
Charleston, WV 25305

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Abraham Walks at Midnight. West Virginia Division of History and Culture. Accessed May 02, 2018. http://wvculture.zenfolio.com/snapshot/h59700CEA#h59700cea.

"Statues of Abraham Lincoln. West Virginia". Internet Archive. 1979. Accessed February 10, 2019. https://archive.org/details/statuesoftlinc/page/n7.

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight. Revolvy. Accessed June 22, 2019. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Abraham-Lincoln-Walks-at-Midnight.

 "Vachel Lindsay," Revolvy. Accessed June 22, 2019. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Abraham-Lincoln-Walks-at-Midnight. 

Deacon, Sneakin. Lincoln Walks at Midnight - Charleston, West Virginia. Waymarking. January 11, 2007. Accessed June 21, 2019. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM14EW_Lincoln_Walks_at_Midnight_Charleston_West_Virginia.

McCranie, Judson. "West Virginia State Capitol, Charleston, WV, US." May 12, 2018, Accessed June 22, 2019. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:West_Virginia_State_Capitol,_Charleston,_WV,_US_(54).jpg

Squires, J. Duane. Lincoln and West Virginia Statehood. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History. Accessed June 21, 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh24-4.html.

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