This is your chance to stand at the spot where Abraham Lincoln once stood and dreamed of extending the railroad across the entire United States.
Lincoln Monument Park is located on Lafayette Ave in Council Bluffs, Iowa. At about 1.5 acres in size, it’s relatively small. There is a grand staircase that descends down below the overlook. At the top, the park features the historic Lincoln Monument. The obelisk was built in 1911 in remembrance of Lincoln’s trip to Council Bluffs in 1859.
“This monument is to commemorate the visit of Abraham Lincoln to Council Bluffs, Aug 19, 1859. From this point he viewed the extensive panorama of the valley of the Missouri River and in compliance with the law of Congress on November 17, 1863 he selected this city as the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. “The plaque at the Lincoln Monument Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa
As you can see in the photos, it was a cold, overcast winter day when I visited. The obelisk with the plaque is really the only thing that signals to you the importance of what took place at the location. With the haze and clouds, I was only barely able to make out the Omaha skyline, however, I can imagine that this is a great location to catch a sunset when the conditions are better. Around the 4th of July, I can also imagine that this is the ideal location to catch the fireworks as they are sprinkled across the horizon.
Why did Lincoln visit Council Bluffs?
In 1858 Lincoln had extensively debated Stephen Douglas for a senator position in the state of Illinois. Although Lincoln lost the election, he became a national figure because of his debate and speech skills. In August of 1859, Lincoln arrived via steamboat in Carter Lake, Iowa. Lincoln’s purpose for the visit was to evaluate 17 parcels of land in Council Bluffs that were offered as collateral for a loan by a fellow railroad lawyer.
He was originally asked to give a speech at Bayliss Park, but it was moved over to the Pacific Hotel. It was here at the hotel, where Lincoln met a local railroad engineer, Grenville Dodge. Lincoln had numerous questions for Dodge. Lincoln shared his desire for promoting the railroad. He also inquired about the best pathway across the United States. Dodge had experience with both the railroad and the western terrain. and he advised Lincoln to use the Platte River Valley west of Council Bluffs as the ideal path westward. A few years later, Council Bluffs was named the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.
If you’re in Council Bluffs and checking out the Lincoln Monument Park, you should also consider the following:
- Black Angel – it’s just a few minutes walk from the monument westward to cemetery to see the Black Angel, a sculpture that is tied to the Dodge family as well as the artist who created the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.
- Union Pacific Railroad Museum – a free musuem containing the history of Union Pacific, the transcontinental railroad. It also includes a collection related to the Abraham Lincoln funeral train
- Golden Spike Monument – marks the eastern point of transcontinental railroad