Springfield cemetery restoring Abe Lincoln’s vault

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SPRINGFIELD — A vault that temporarily held Abraham Lincoln’s body is set to be restored for an upcoming event that will mark the anniversary of his 1865 funeral in Springfield.

Illinois bid documents show up to $300,000 in repairs and waterproofing are planned at Oak Ridge Cemetery. The remains of Lincoln and his son, Willie, were kept in the vault from May 4, 1865, until Dec. 21, 1865, before they were eventually moved to a permanent tomb. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, said the vault restoration should be complete for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s funeral in May 2015.

Although changes have already been made on roads that channeled water into the vault, the next phase of construction includes excavation near the vault, waterproofing, drain installation, repairing the stone facade and restoring gates, according to Aly Grady, the agency’s superintendent of state historic sites.

“That is a low spot in the cemetery,” she said. “The way it was before, it was easy for water to get up into the vault, and over time it caused exterior issues.”

The vault’s restoration will make it look cleaner, nicer and more vibrant, Grady told The State Journal Register.

A private group is also restoring the cemetery’s original gateway, where the Lincoln funeral procession entered in the spring of 1865, in preparation for a two-day commemoration that aims to recreate the original event, including a replica funeral train, according to Katie Spindell, chairwoman of the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition. Thousands of volunteers are expected to take part in the reenactment and play the roles of Springfield residents, dignitaries and soldiers from the 19th century.

“All of this is volunteer,” Spindell said. “We wanted to ask everyone in the community. If they want to be involved, we’ll find a way for them to be involved.”

Volunteers have already begun to contact the coalition, she said, including people from Germany and Wales.

“So many people have stepped up to help,” Spindell said. “It’s just extraordinary.”

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