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Who is the Wilmingtonian who designed the Lincoln Memorial?

Ben Steelman
Confederate soldiers memorial

Henry Bacon also designed the Confederate soldiers memorial at Third and Dock streets in Wilmington. (StarNews file photo)

Henry Bacon (1866-1924), the American architect, was born in Watseka, Ill., but spent most of his childhood in Wilmington and graduated from Tileston School in 1884. One of his earliest works, an 1887 watercolor sketch of the St. John’s Lodge building on Orange Street, is now in the collection of the Cameron Art Museum.

His father, Henry Bacon Sr. a civil engineer, was employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Cape Fear River projects — primarily the closing of the New Inlet, which was threatening to close the river channel into Wilmington with silt. The elder Bacon’s work — now known as “The Rocks” at Federal Point — was voted one of the 12 “Best Ever” Corps of Engineers projects in 1975. (The younger Bacon would copy his father’s work, driving deep pilings in the Potomac River shoreline to anchor the Lincoln Memorial.)

Bacon spent eight years, from 1914 to 1922 working on the Memorial project in Washington (with time out for World War I). In 1923, he received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects.

His other works include the Olin Library at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., several other buildings on the Wesleyan campus, the gates of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, the Court of the Four Seasons for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and the La Fetra Mansion in Summit, N.J.

In Wilmington, Bacon designed the Donald MacRae House at 15 South Third St., Wilmington [Map this], (now the offices of St. James Episcopal Church), the Confederate Memorial on Third Street at Dock street, Wilmington, and “The Oaks” on Masonboro Sound (originally built for Walter Parsley). He remodeled the Hugh MacRae residence on Market Street, now demolished.

Bacon is buried at Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery, at the end of North 15th Street, Wilmington, in the Bacon family plot. He designed several of the Bacon tombstones, including his own, based on sketches he made at excavations of the tomb of Publius Varius in Assos, Turkey, supervised by his brother, the archaeologist Francis Bacon.

Bacon isn’t the only local architect with Washington ties. John Russell Pope (1874-1937) married Sadie Jones, the daughter of Pembroke Jones and Sarah Green Jones, in Wilmington. Pope designed a little Greek temple for his father-in-law’s “lodge,” now on the grounds of the Landfall development. Some people see this little temple, now a Landfall trademark, as an early study for the Jefferson Memorial, which Pope designed in the 1920s.

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