West Virginia State Capitol Complex Walking Tour

Lincoln Walks at Midnight

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

Overview Listen

West Virginia sculptor created designed this statue featuring the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, deep in contemplation as he walks. The statue was dedicated in 1935 and is known now as "Lincoln Walks at Midnight." 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. For some, the statue depicts Lincoln on a restless night as he considers how to respond to West Virginia's application as a state and how it might help the Union cause in the midst of the Civil War. For others familiar with the poetry of Vachel Lindsay, the statue's title shares the name of Lindsay's poem which depicts Lincoln's restless spirit walking through Springfield in the midst of another conflict known in Lindsay's day as the Great War. Parking is limited, especially during times that the WV Legislature is in session.


Photo Photo by: Jodie Groves

Backstory Listen

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 state
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 yards
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 ancient black,
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 now.
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 spirit-dawn
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

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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.

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