West Virginia State Capitol Complex Walking Tour
Overview ListenFred Torrey was a sculptor from West Virginia known for his monuments and architectural sculpture. He created a model of a contemplative 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, in 1935, known now as "Lincoln Walks at Midnight." The statue is located in front of the south portico of the West Virginia State Capitol. It overlooks Kanawha River and the main rotunda is behind. Parking is limited, especially during times that the WV Legislature is in session. There is no charge for visiting the statue, and it is available to be viewed 24 hours a day.
Lincoln Walks at Midnight portrays Abraham Lincoln walking the streets of Springfield, Illinois, during one of his many sleepless nights. In 1974, Charleston artist Bernard Wiepper created a nine-and-a-half foot bronze casting of the original statue. The reason that the statue is placed in front of the West Virginia State Capitol is because it is used to portray Lincoln contemplating the creation of West Virginia as the 35th state in the Union. It was proposed to place the statue on the south side of the Capitol building facing south so that light would always be on the face.
The statue was inspired by the following poem:
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
by Vachel Lindsay
(In Springfield, Illinois)
It is portentous, and a thing of
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down.
Or by his homestead, or in shadowed
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.
A bronzed, lank man! His suit of
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.
He cannot sleep upon his hillside
He is among us:—as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.
His head is bowed. He thinks on
men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.
The sins of all the war-lords
burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.
He cannot rest until a
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free;
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.
It breaks his heart that kings
must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?
1900 Kanawha Blvd E
Charleston, WV 25305