Davis sites gain visits amid Lincoln 200th fervor
September 28, 2008
BY JOE BIESK
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- From Abraham Lincoln's boyhood residence to the Mary Todd Lincoln house, visitors this year are flocking to Kentucky sites dedicated to the 16th president.
But Lincoln's Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis, is experiencing a similar resurgence. Kentucky, which claims both men as native sons and has statues of both in its Capitol Rotunda, isn't the only place experiencing a Davis boost.
"It'll be hard for anyone to approach the level of attention that Abraham Lincoln gets because he's always classified as one of our greatest presidents," said Paul Bradshaw, manager of a Davis historic site in Georgia. "But I think there's a trend to learn more about the other side."
Interest in both Civil War presidents seems on the rise amid a two-year blitz surrounding Lincoln's 200th birthday next February. This June marked 200 years since the birth of Davis, who served as president of the Confederacy.
Attendance at Kentucky's Lincoln sites has increased about 18 percent, officials say. Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home in Hodgenville, for example, had more than 105,000 visitors in the first six months this year, compared with about 89,000 during the same period last year.
In addition to the Lincoln museum, birthplace and boyhood home in Hodgenville, Kentucky has eight other museums and historic sites related to Lincoln, his family and associates.
Davis' memorial in Fairview, in southwestern Kentucky, meanwhile, has seen an increase in visitors by about 12 percent overall for the year, and a nearly 30 percent jump in June, the month he was born, said Mark Doss, the Davis memorial park manager.
Increased interest in the Civil War, combined with the bicentennial events, are likely behind the renewed interest, Bradshaw said.
Rick Forte, acting director of Beauvoir, the home in Biloxi, Miss., where Davis last lived, said about 4,000 people visited the estate on June 3 for Davis' birthday celebration and grand reopening of the home after restoration work following Hurricane Katrina.
"We have seen just an outstanding growth of interest," Forte said. "Phone calls, e-mails, you name it."
In Lexington, Ky., a town that also boasts ties to both men, the Lexington History Museum has an exhibit featuring both Lincoln and Davis. The museum's president said a record number of people -- more than 8,000 -- have viewed the museum's exhibit. - AP